the Future of Fair Trade
of discontent over issues concerning liberalisation of trade
finally formed into a surge that brought down the talks at Cancun.
The Cancun ministerial agenda got stuck, as the 146 nations,
the members of WTO, failed to agree on major issues.
Cancun, all roads led to disagreement. And not even a last minute
compromise deal that the WTO came up with could save the talks
meeting failed in respect of getting the multilateral trade
treaty forward. Perhaps it is too early to say that Globalistion
has reached a bottleneck. But, the process has certainly taken
a blow, and from the most unlikely parties-- the ountries of
the Third World.
belated in response, the experts in Dhaka have expressed their
concern about Bangladesh's inability to account for its own
interest. They questioned the issues taken up by the convener
of 49 LDC countries that Bangladesh played the role of at Cancun.
subsidies in agricultural sectors by the developing nations
was sighted as one of the important issues which, if implemented,
could put Bangladesh in a compromising position. As Bangladesh,
a food-deficit country, is dependent upon the agro-products
grown in the developed world. The issue of free movement of
natural persons too would not have helped much the cause of
our interest. The only valid position in order to save the garment
industry and whatever little Bangladesh produces in other sectors
would have been to press for ' special safeguard measures'.
It is essential for our products to win easy access in the world
market. But Bangladesh's agenda was not centred on this, although
it was one of the points that figured in the agenda of the commerce
it were the focal point, it would not have meant much, as Zaed
Bakht of Bangladesh Institute of Development observes. He says
that unlike ACP (Africa, Caribbean, and the Pacific countries)
the LDC was not as active at Cancun, during the meeting.
the Bangladesh delegation has been divided into fifteen working
groups, but according to a news paper report, had no meetings
or discussions to carry out the agenda set in the Dhaka Declaration.
The delegates complained that they recieved no briefings from
the minister, nor were they assigned to perform any specific
development activist and managing director of UBINIG, a grass-roots
NGO, has alluded to the lack of direction of the negotiations
that Bangladesh is participating in."
AU (African Union) were active in changing the drift, Bangladesh
played the role of a tamed bystander. Many countries that polarised
on the 'Singapore issue', had gained strong leverage in the
talks. But Bangladesh seemed to have been under the pressure
of the giant, US.
As for the
talks going over the brink, the effect on our press and on the
experts are somewhat mixed. The daily Prothom Alo calls it a
triumph of the poor countries in the world. But the former secretary
and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva,
M Anwar Hashim belives that it is through the WTO that “a positive
new world order” can be built. He sees it as a setback, and
hopes that both the poor and the rich countries would soon be
able to forge an agenda that would be based on justice, equity
are preg nant with hope that they never dared to treasure before
the failure of the talks at Cancun.
declaration of the WTO came at a press conference in the evening
of Sunday the 14th at Cancun, Mexico. And the crowd turned jubilant.
While the anti-globalisation activists, and the pro-fair trade
lobbyists rejoiced, the developing nations also proclaimed victory
echoing the sentiment of trade unions, peasant platforms and
other activists from the opposite pole of the WTO.
had their reservations. They reflected on the fact that with
WTO's agenda at crossroad the world's already ailing economy
will be in danger of getting worse. The British Trade and Industry
Secretary, Patricia Hewitt proclaimed, “This is a huge setback.
It is a blow to the Doha Development round, and it's a setback
for the world economy, which very badly needed a boost to confidence.”
apprehensive that with the question of agricultural subsidies
unresolved, the farmers around the world are doomed to face
the competition with the rich countries.
thing has been made lucidly clear that the rich countries were
not ready to make concessions' to the poor. The other side of
the coin is of more significance; the poor nations seem to have
discovered their 'voice' at Cancun. The representatives of the
developing countries proved to have understood their own interest
and also found a way to flex a bit of muscle in order to stand
As for the
failure of the talks, the Daily Star reports blamed it on the
rigidity of the EU and the US, countries representing the rich
nations. India, one of the nations that lobbied for withdrawal
of subsidies in agriculture along with Brazil and China, declared
that talks failed because the developed nations failed to gauge
the poor countries' concerns in drafting a new multilateral
Oxfam's agenda was to push for pro-poor policies while acknowledging
the WTO as a legitimate vehicle for the global trade, they decried,
in the end, that the refusal of the EU and US to cede any ground
to developing countries on agriculture-- and Europe's attempt
to force a global investment and competition treaty on to the
table-- had forced the poor countries to walk out.
delegates from the rich countries felt otherwise. The US trade
representative said that the collapse was caused by “too many
delegates pontificating than negotiating.” The remark clearly
reveals how reluctant the developed nations still are in listening
to the complaints and pondering over the programmes set by their
No one was
sure about the outcome of Cancun ministerial before it reached
a standoff, no one could predict this wholesale failure. Even
when the news of impasse was pouring in, it was hard to believe
that the poor of the world would be able sway the giants who
steer the WTO.
rift manifested in all its teething composition at the last
two days of the meeting, the activists for pro-poor and the
anti-globalisation groups found a cause to celebrate. Many countries
too could not hide their jubilation and heaved a sigh of relief.
of 'The Nation' dubbed the ministerial meeting the “Five days
of brinkmanship”. Though she echoes the sentiment of the pro-globalisation
lobby and dreads a world economic slack without the WTO to make
a difference. But she also admits that Cancun had been dominated
by a struggle between the WTO's traditional powerbrokers, the
EU and the US, and a new group of militant developing countries,
flexing their negotiating muscles for the first time. Led by
Brazil, India and China, they certainly have secured a stronger
position in the running of world's trade affairs.
a bid to save the talks from going overboard. A 'compromise
declaration' was drawn on Sunday, September 14. It was an attempt
to assuage all the sides and bring the ministerial to a successful
conclusion. The WTO was thinking of extending the meeting. But
every effort to set it on proper footing again failed.
developing countries (LDC), African Union (AU) and block of
African, Caribian and Pacific nations (ACPs), in a joint statement
expressed utter dissatisfaction over the draft (the compromise
declaration) on that very day. In fact no country was satisfied
spokesman Keith Rockwell's word on the final day of the meeting
sums it up well, he said, “ there is a consensus on one point
that is on disagreement.”
countries criticised the meeting chairman, Luis Ernesto Derbez,
for pulling the plug too quickly as progress was reported on
the thorny issue of massive EU and US subsidies to domestic
the US trade representative, said that after the setback in
Cancun, the US would redouble its efforts to reach bilateral
trade deals with favoured nations. It only means that with or
without WTO, the rich would carry on with their agenda. But
there is a question mark that lately has appeared to mar their
smooth treading. With poor nations realising, though belatedly,
their own self-interest, the world trade may not be the monopoly
of the rich anymore.
South Africa's trade minister, surmised recognising the new
drift, "This is a change in the quality of negotiations
between developing and developed countries."
be seen as a lesson for the poor nations to “stand up for their
right”, as Bob Marley, the pop sensation from the Caribbean,
had once sung. Though, after the impasse, the Beatles got the
upper hand, when activists were spotted singing Money Can't
Buy the World in tune of their hit song “Can't Buy Me love”
to mock the failure of me rich to bring the meeting in their