Global NGOs tell G-20 to resist pressures

NEW DELHI, MARCH 17. On the eve of the two-day Group of 20 ministerial meeting, civil society groups have urged the alliance of developing countries keep "a strong position" on all pillars of the agricultural negotiations. The G-20 is meeting here to evolve a common strategy and position for developing countries on agricultural issues in the negotiations of the Doha development round of the World Trade Organisation. This is the first time that India is hosting a ministerial level meeting on WTO-related issues.

According to an official release, the conclave is expected to prepare a G-20 paper ahead of the Hong Kong WTO ministerial to be held in December this year. The meeting will take stock of the state of play in the negotiations in Geneva since the WTO framework agreement signed in July last year. It will also seek to provide political inputs considered necessary to break the logjam on various technical matters among WTO members.

In a separate statement addressed to G-20 ministers, civil society groups, including Oxfam, Actionaid, Gene campaign and others have strongly urged the G-20 to build and agree on common positions with other developing country groupings, including the G-33, the Africa Union, the ACPs and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the run up to the Hong Kong ministerial. In this context, they have expressed concern about the widening rift between middle-income countries and poorer countries, which is being fuelled by the European Union and the U.S. "The G-20 has a special responsibility to defend those developing countries, which have less power in the negotiations", it is stated.

Serious risk

Warning about the pressure on WTO members to agree to modalities by the Hong Kong conference, they have stressed that there is a "serious risk" that the G-20 will be put into an untenable position where it must accept a mediocre agreement or risk being seen as responsible for another faltered ministerial conference. "We believe it is crucial for the G-20 to avoid getting caught in such a trap", they have stated.

They have asked the G-20 ministers to demand an early date for the removal of all forms of export subsidies in developed countries and also call for elimination of all trade-distorting domestic support that leads to dumping including a review of subsidies currently classified under the green box. They have also advocated that they should resist tactics of rich countries, which demand major market access commitments from developing countries in non-agricultural market access and services in exchange for their "so-called concessions" on agriculture. Special and differential treatment should be an integral part of all areas negotiated under the Doha development agenda, it is stated.

The civil society groups have also urged the ministers to insist on a truly transparent and inclusive process on the road to Hong Kong rather than succumb to the temptation of joining a small directory of countries such as the NG 5 (non-group 5).

Among the groups which have signed the statement are REBRIP, a Brazilian platform of NGOs and social movements, Remalc, a Mexican network of NGOs, Unnayan Onneshan from Bangladesh, Sawtee, a Nepalese netowrk and a Pakistani NGO, SDPI.

Apart from India, major players in the G-20 included Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mexico and Argentina. Others in the grouping are Cuba, Bolivia, Guatemala, Chile, Nigeria, Paraguay, Thailand, Philippines, Tanzania, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

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