World trade rules still not fair
In contrast to the statements by several governments who hailed the WTO’s Ministerial conference as a success, the members of the FINE platform, the four principal European and International federations for Fair Trade (FLO, IFAT, NEWS and EFTA), all agreed that the meeting was a failure, when measured against development goals.
Despite constantly talking of a “development round” the Hong Kong WTO Ministerial meeting has given priority to opening markets instead of putting development at its heart. Developing countries were under enormous pressure from the powerful trade blocks of the North to accept more trade liberalisation.
After presenting a joint position towards the 6th Ministerial World, urging to protect the world weakest economies from liberalization trade, the FINE platform was bitterly disappointed about the outcome of the conference.
What was agreed in Hong Kong: in a nut-shell
• Export subsidies will be abolished by 2013 - but only if poor countries agree to open up their industrial and service sectors, something most developing countries had strongly resisted.
• A “development package” to help poor countries gain access to rich countries markets - but the benefits will be minimal.
• Export subsidies on cotton will be eliminated – but this will make little difference to cotton farmers in poor countries.
• A further meeting will be held in Geneva (where the WTO headquarters are based) probably in March or April 2006.
Please click here to read the full Fair Trade statement on the outcomes of the 6 th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong
However, outside of the official negotiation rooms, the Fair trade movement had a great presence in Hong Kong at the Fair Trade Fair and Symposium. During the three-day fair trade fair, producers from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America displayed and sold their products, including coffee, chocolate, spices, crafts, textiles and many others. These producers had the opportunity to share their stories about fair trade's enormous impact on their communities with the visitors. FLO-certified Producers were also present as, for example, the Green Net Cooperative from Thailand and the Kashintual Cane Growers Limited Cooperative from Malawi.
While a “fair” outcome of the WTO negotiations could not be achieved, Fair Trade demonstrated clearly that it constitutes a real alternative towards more trade justice!