Poor Nations Launch Talks To Lower Trade Barriers

Poor nations on June 16 launched new talks to lower their trade barriers in a move to fight poverty and win access to rich countries‘ markets, reports Reuters.

Argentine and Brazilian ministers launched negotiations to expand the Global System of Trade Preferences – an agreement on tariff reduction and trade liberalization among 44 developing countries – to at least 40 more nations. Many developing nations see trade with poor neighbors as second best to that with rich countries. But most see no alternative to so-called South-South trade while tariff barriers and subsidies block their farm exports from reaching Europe and the United States. Countries like the United States and France want more access to poor nations‘ economies before they open up their lucrative farm sectors to developing countries‘ exports.

Argentine Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna told delegates at a meeting of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Brazil that the new round of negotiations could lift millions out of poverty and push along a struggling world trade deal. „Advances in the Global System of Trade Preferences may go in parallel with the multilateral talks,“ Lavagna said. „This system contributes to the progressive liberalization of global trade.“ US officials voiced concern the newly launched negotiations could be a threat to the WTO’s troubled Doha round of free trade talks. Unlike WTO members, countries in the Global System of Trade Preferences do not have to extend mutual trade concessions to industrialized nations.

Dow Jones notes the leaders of Uganda and the Dominican Republic insisted Wednesday that developing countries must make sure they benefit from free trade instead of simply opening Third World markets to multinational corporations. President-elect Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic said developing countries must build better trading relationships among themselves and with the world’s most industrialized nations. But Fernandez said poor countries can’t depend entirely on aid or trade from rich nations to solve all of the Third World’s problems. Latin American countries, he said, must open up their markets to one another by reducing tariffs and find a way to cooperate more to help the region’s governments improve business conditions and raise living standards. „We need regional integration, development of our own information technology and education for growth,“ he said. „We can in this way accelerate our development.“

TAZ (Germany) notes UNCTAD Secretary General Rubens Ricupero proposed in Sao Paulo to establish an international raw materials fund for poor countries who are dependent on such resources. The fund would absorb some of the negative effects of price fluctuation of raw materials on poor countries. Further, loans from multilateral organizations could be used to help these countries diversify their economies, as well as process raw materials in the countries themselves.

Agence France Presse reports that Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawa trawrapped up his official visit to Brazil with pledges to cooperate in making generic AIDS drugs and in a new round of global trade talks under the WTO. Shinawatra, who met earlier with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, began his first official visit to South America’s biggest country at the weekend to attend the UN Conference on Trade and Development. They agreed to form a joint commission, to be coordinated by the two nation’s foreign ministries, and specifically to work on ways of developing trade in ethanol, a fuel that Brazil makes from sugar cane and uses widely in automobiles. They also agreed to bolster cooperation in health care, „particularly in the areas of AIDS control and generic AIDS drugs production,“ but also in fighting other sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis, the statement said.

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