Monday, September 15, 2003
CANCUN, Mexico, (AFP) --
Campaigners and lobbyists yesterday blamed an
insistence by rich countries on pushing their demands
against the will of developing nations for the
breakdown in WTO trade talks here.
Oxfam, the international relief
agency, said it took "no delight in this failure,"
calling the failure of the five-day World Trade
Organisation meeting a "missed opportunity".
"Rich countries over-played their
hand and misjudged the strength of feeling and unity
of the developing world, who want to make trade fair
and have a stake in global prosperity," it said in a
Ministers of the 146 WTO member
states had gathered in this Caribbean beachside resort
in an effort to bridge differences that have so far
held up progress toward a new trade liberalisation
But divergences, especially over
cutting farm subsidies and tariffs and on whether the
WTO should embrace new rules on investment and
competition policy, have cast a long shadow over the
Around the time the conference was
officially due to close here yesterday, reports began
emerging that the talks had collapsed, mired in
difficulties too rigid to narrow.
Friends of the Earth International
said developing countries had refused to accept EU
demands to liberalise investment, competition,
transparency in government bidding processes and trade
"As a result of their refusal and
the European Union's intransigence, the talks have
collapsed," the group said in a written statement.
But it welcomed the clout mustered
by developing countries, which account for about
two-thirds of the WTO's membership, in making
"Despite intense pressure from the
business lobbies, and bullying by the European Union
and the US, developing countries have stood their
ground,"said Ronnie Hall of Friends of the Earth.
"This is a great development for
people, small businesses and the protection of the
environment," he added.
Public Citizen, based in the United
States, said the collapse had made evident the WTO's
"ever-growing crisis of legitimacy" after the United
States and the European Union "stubbornly rejected"
the demands of the majority of WTO members.
The United States had not
represented the interests of most Americans at the
conference, but rather large corporations, it
It called the result a victory for
global civil society and developing countries,
describing the conference as "Seattle-on-the-beach",
in a reference to the 1999 WTO talks in Seattle that
Oxfam signalled that the Cancun
meeting was a turning point for global trade
"On paper, this meeting has failed,
but the new power of developing countries, backed by
campaigners around the world has made Cancun a turning
point," Phil Bloomer said.
"In the past, rich countries made
deals behind closed doors without listening to the
rest of the world. They tried it again in Cancun.
"But developing countries refused
to sign a deal that would fail the world's poorest
WTO members launched the current
round of trade liberalisation talks in the Qatari
capital Doha in November 2001.
It had been scheduled to wrap up by
January 1, 2005 with a new global pact outlining new
free trade rules in farm products, services trade and