Socialist Worker

Services in the developing world under further attack from WTO

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 1982

The WTO did not deliver everything the most powerful governments wanted. Many factors held them back. As well as the protests, these included splits between the US and the EU, splits within the EU and splits between the poorest countries and rising powers such as China, Brazil and India.

However, there were several measures adopted which will help the multinationals and cause greater poverty.

In particular there were further strides towards an agreement to force governments to open up services (education, health, post etc) to private firms.

Martin Khor from the Third World Network says, “The WTO’s conference has resulted in an imbalanced outcome to the disadvantage of developing countries.

“The developing countries gave in on the key market access issues of services and Nama (non-agricultural market access). In return they did not receive any significant gains over the developed countries’ subsidies to major agribusiness cotton growers, market access,or ‘aid for trade’ — the three main components of a so called development package.

“As for the 2013 end date for elimination of agricultural export subsidies — the most publicised claim of benefit from Hong Kong — it was no victory.

Pressurise

“The real prize that the major countries wanted out of Hong Kong was a change in the negotiating procedures around services, so that they would have new instruments to pressurise developing countries to open up their key services sub-sectors.

“Despite massive opposition from a very large number of developing countries, including the G90, for five days, the developed countries eventually got what they wanted.

“From the start, the EU’s Peter Mandelson went on an aggressive campaign to get developing countries to agree to its services and Nama proposals, threatening that he would not offer anything in agriculture otherwise. This would not have worked, however, if the developing countries felt they had nothing to gain.

“Recognising this, the major developed countries, aided by the secretariat, sought to offer (or seemed to offer) something for each group of developing countries, early on in the conference.

“By the last day, each group — the G20, G33, less developed countries, cotton countries, the African, Caribbean and Pacific group — was convinced that what it got was valuable enough to give up its fight on services or Nama, and thus all the groups were persuaded (or persuaded themselves) that they could accept the whole package.

“The persuasion aspect was important in the final hours. When finally on the last day the EU agreed to the 2013 end date for export subsidies, the G20 leaders (India, Brazil, China) went on a persuasion drive to get other developing countries and their groupings to agree to the services text.

“Most developing countries that spoke at the last heads of delegation meeting accepted the last draft ministerial text.

“Venezuela and Cuba, however, persisted in their objections to the services annex and to parts of the Nama text, but they were by themselves too few in number and influence either to have the relevant parts of the draft amended, or to block consensus of the whole draft.”

For details of the WTO deal go to www.twnside.org.sg


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International
Sat 7 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1982
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