By Jeremy SmithAlertNet
19 September, 2003
Europe's farm chief Franz Fischler on Friday blamed the influence of NGOs on developing countries for making it more difficult to reach a deal at last week's failed global trade talks.
Fischler, one of the EU's two top negotiators at the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) meeting in Cancun, said the heavy NGO presence there had encouraged Third World nations to dig in their heels and not give ground in the marathon talks.
"One of the biggest problems was that too many people were not interested in the success of the round and the second problem was that there was a misperception of what negotiations mean," Fischler told reporters at a briefing. "This was led partly by NGOs, they conveyed the message to developing countries that no deal was better than a bad deal."
Scores of special-interest groups, non-profit lobbying agencies and anti-globalisation protestors travelled to Cancun for last week's talks, hoping to influence the debate in the hope of getting a deal more favourable to the Third World. But the WTO talks broke down on Sunday when delegates from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia walked out, saying they were not offered enough inducements on agriculture and other issues. The collapse means that the WTO is unlikely to meet its own January 2005 deadline for dismantling global trade barriers -- a view echoed by Fischler, who said it would now be very difficult to conclude the current Doha round of trade talks on time.
Fischler accused NGOs of creating a mood of mistrust. "If you are confronted all the time with whatever you do is to cheat the others, then...it is impossible to create an atmosphere of mutual trust," he said. Food aid charities and other NGOs have called EU negotiators at Cancun arrogant for pushing issues that poor nations wanted shelved but refusing to yield on farm subsidies.
But Fischler was also dismissive of a coalition group of 21 hard-bargaining developing countries led by Brazil and India that emerged at Cancun to demand rich countries scrap their subsidies, showing the rising clout of poor states at the WTO. "What they have in common is only to agree to minimal disciplines for all the developing countries. There is nothing else they have in common," he said. "The risk is when real negotiations start where they also have to make concessions, they cannot agree on concessions," he said. "It's hard to see a winner from the failure at Cancun."
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