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NGOs hold demo and oppose 'new issues' in WTO’s talks agenda

By Nzau Musau | December 16th 2015

NAIROBI: Non-governmental organisations attending the 10th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference in Nairobi have opposed the inclusion of "new issues" at the negotiating table by the developed countries.

Tuesday, the most radical of the NGOs, like the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiation Institute (SEATINI), held a public demonstration outside the talks' venue demanding for collapse of the talks and seeking reform of the WTO.

A moderate section of NGOs, led by among others Human & Trade Union Rights-Africa, Least Developed Countries Watch and Global Justice Now UK, held a press conference inside the venue to push for resumption of Doha Development Round issues which sought to address disparities in world trade.

The new issues they are opposed to include agreements on investment, government procurement and disciplining of State-owned enterprises, competition policy among others.

The Doha Development Round issues, which were never comprehensively concluded or implemented, include issues on agriculture, industrial tariffs and non-trariff barriers and trade remedies.

"We normally differ on many issues as distinct NGOs from distinct regions with distinct interests, but for once on this, we are united. We are saying the new issues have no basis. It is outrageous to think that you can have a bypassing of the development agenda," Polly Jones from the Global Justice Now lobby group said.

According to Deborah James of 'Our World Is Not For Sale', developed and rich countries never intended to deliver on the development and agricultural reform promises and have spent the last 14 years of the Doha Round sidelining development issues.

"Essentially, they have been working to expand the WTO neo-liberal dictates on services, goods and agriculture while at the same time taking their corporate wish lists to other forums among them the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Ms James said yesterday.

While opposing the inclusion of the new issues in the Nairobi talks, Biraj Patnaik, the principal advisor to the commissioners of the Indian Supreme Court on the right to food, told Kenya and other African countries to stand up for their food security programmes.

The current WTO Agreement on Agriculture allows rich countries to retain their farm subsidies but prevents developing countries from providing similar levels of subsidies to their farmers.

Previous attempts to settle this "injustice" by regularising, for example, stockholding programmes as subsidies, have been opposed by the US and the EU.

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