17 December 2005

WTO Talks Erupt in Violence Yet Again

HONG KONG-According to the Bangkok Post, hundreds of anti-globalization "protestors were arrested early today as police reclaimed the streets of Hong Kong following a night of violent clashes."

The violence today was the first since the early clashes between police and South Korean protestors on the opening days of deliberations. Of major concern is that, after "two days of relatively peaceful protests, police said they had been expecting thousands of demonstrators at the last two days of the meeting, attended by 6,000 delegates from 149 member states."

The meeting was meant to produce a plan to lower trade barriers for increased global trade, but the sticking point has been agricultural subsidies provided by developed countries.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, "time is fast running out for a deal, as negotiators remain deadlocked over the thorniest issues," especially putting an end to farm export subsidies centered in rich countries and bolstering exports from poorer nations.

RFE/RL reports that, "with just one day left, U.S. Deputy Trade Representative Peter Allgeier put a brave face on the faltering talks.

'We have within our grasp in the next 24 hours the possibility of a very significant package of measures, decisions I should say, that would move us forward in meeting our objectives of unleashing the power of trade for development in the form of a successful Doha agreement at the end of next year, so the potential is there, as I said, it is just beyond our fingertips,' Allgeier said.

The draft of the final declaration has agreed that rich countries must scrap their export subsidies for cotton next year, a move aimed at helping poor African producers.

Critics, however, say the talks have failed to reach their main aim -- setting a date for ending rich countries' farm export subsidies.

The draft suggested farm subsidies be eliminated in 2010, or within a period of five years, but both suggestions were inside brackets, meaning neither may be adopted in the end.

The United States and other countries wanted subsidies to end by 2010. But the EU objected. It says the United States and other rich countries must agree to reform their farm-export systems first. And it wants poorer countries to free up their markets for manufactured goods and services.

And there's also no progress on a plan to give greater access to exports for the world's least-developed countries."

For more information, see links above or the World Trade Organization web site.

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