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Commodity concerns threaten to derail WTO talks - ACP
Updated: 2005-12-16 15:07

The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) said Friday that continuing lack of attention and assurances to their concerns from developed countries on key commodities threaten to derail the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks, which are being held in Hong Kong from December 13 to 18.

"The Group expressed its extreme anger and concern at the lack of movement on cotton and sugar, particularly on the part of the United States and European Union (EU)," ACP said in a statement.

The ACP is seeking a meeting with the WTO director general, the chair of the current Ministerial Conference, and the facilitator on Agriculture to highlight their concerns, according to the statement.

The statement said US intransigence on cotton stands to cost African farmers around 794 million US dollars a year and threatens the livelihoods of 15 million people.

ACP sugar supplying states will permanently lose over 441 million US dollars a year with the recent reform of the EU sugar regime and face the threat of further erosion of their preferences in Hong Kong.

ACP banana producing countries are facing the persistent erosion of their preferences. This is already resulting in the destruction of their industries and is threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, the statement added.

The statement quoted ACP Ministerial Spokesperson on Sugar Arvin Boolell, who is also Mauritius' minister of agriculture, as saying "we are starting to strongly question the value of the WTO to small, vulnerable developing countries. It appears that these talks will bring us nothing at all and even drive us further into poverty."

"This situation makes a mockery of the development agenda of this Round. We will not accept any agreement in Hong Kong that is made at our expense," he said.

ACP Ministerial Spokesperson on Bananas Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, who is Cameroon's minister of commerce, also said, "We should not lose sight of the ultimate objective of this Round, which is to promote development through trade, and not trade for trade's sake."

"To undermine preferences runs counter to development," he added.

The week-long Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference, which is being attended by delegates from the WTO's 150 members, aims to advance the deadlocked Doha Round trade negotiations. Ministerial conference is the organization's highest decision-making body.

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