Friday, January 21, 2011

hot air

The Doha talks began in 2001, and was aimed at reducing barriers to market access throughout the world, with the development of poor countries at the heart of their agenda.“The length of time that the [Doha] negotiations have taken threatens to render aspects of the agenda obsolete." was the conclusion of the just-ended global poverty summit in Johannesburg

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the assistant secretary-general of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and a leading Malaysian economist, said it had been extremely difficult to measure any socio-economic benefits of such access. He said studies in his country had shown that a paddy farmer’s child had better nutrition than the children of a rubber farmer who now had access to global markets.

Improving income levels did not automatically imply better lives for the poor in any country, as other factors such as the implementation of policies that benefit the poor within countries matter a lot more, said Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist and chair of the Brooks World Poverty Institute. He cited the USA as an example of where gross domestic product had grown substantially but not filtered down to the poor, who were worse off than a decade ago. "It [high economic growth levels] had a trickle-up effect," said Stiglitz.

Over the past decade the Doha talks have failed to get developed countries to stop subsidizing their farmers and agricultural exports. the USA reintroduced subsidies for cotton farmers in 2008, severely affecting cotton farmers in West African countries like Benin, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso. EU fishing industry subsidies encourage European fishing beyond Europe - something that adversely affects the millions of African fishermen, the World Bank's Hoekman said "If those subsidies are removed it will prevent overfishing, benefiting the poor fishing communities along the African coast and the environment."

Sundaram said sub-Saharan Africa did not stand to benefit from the Doha talks. He pointed out that many least developed countries (LDCs), most of them in Africa, lacked the capacity to compete in the global market.

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