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World trade talks end in failure, delegates say

(Sunday, Sept. 14, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Elizabeth Becker, NY Times: CANCUN, Mexico Trade talks dissolved today when a group of developing nations walked out of the final session saying wealthy nations had failed to offer sufficient compromises on agriculture and other issues.

It marked a temporary halt to the World Trade Organization's trading round dedicated to helping developing nations. Several countries were disappointed that the world economy would not get a lift from the prospect of further opening of global markets.

Richard L. Bernal, a delegate from Jamaica, said that a group of African, Caribbean, Asian and Latin countries felt they had little choice. The United States and Europe, he said, were not generous enough on reducing their agriculture subsidies, on helping poor African countries dependent on cotton, or understanding their difficulties in taking on such new trade responsibilities as investment.

"There is nothing for us small countries in this proposal," he said. "We don't want any of this."

Hailed by Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, as a once in a generation opportunity to further open global markets, there were tensions from the start when a group of 21 developing nations demanded that their ideas be given equal billing with a paper based on a European-American compromise.

The failure means the end of talks here and the transfer of discussions back to Geneva.

Senior trade officials scheduled a news conference later this evening.

George Oduorong'wen, a delegate from Kenya, told reporters that the developing nations should not be blamed for the breakdown.

"It's not our fault that the talks collapsed," he said. "No deal is better than a bad deal."

Rather than begin negotiating the pivotal issue of agriculture, the final trade session opened up with such issues as investment. This proved to be the breaking point because poorer countries say they do not have the wherewithal to handle such complicated issues. Nor, they said, do they want new trading laws that could intrude on their ability to decide their own standards for the environment, labor and other social standards.

"It got to be too much for us," said Bakary Fojana, a delegate from Guinea. "The cotton offer was unjust and ignored what was demanded by African nations. Coming into this meeting everyone said, yes, cotton is an important question; yes, agriculture is important. But when it came down to negotiations our daily problems were ignored."

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/14/international/14WIRE-TRAD.html