Doha trade talks collapse

Disputes that resulted in the failure of the 1999 Seattle World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference were replayed and led to the collapse of the so called ‘Doha round’ of talks in Geneva at the end of July.

Ostensibly about promoting free trade, the US and EU agenda is really about promoting big business at the expense of small producers, especially in the under-developed countries. The US and EU representatives fell out over reducing agricultural subsidies: neither would move before the other. The underdeveloped countries resisted opening their markets even wider to US and EU exports and investments without the US and EU cutting their farm subsidies. India’s trade minister, Kamal Nath, explained that: ‘Indian farmers can compete with US farmers, but not with the US Treasury.’

The 30 most developed capitalist nations spent $285 billion on agricultural subsidies in 2005. Almost one third of EU farm income came from these payments. In the Doha round the US stated that it intended to increase its farm subsidies by $3.5 billion a year. In the name of free trade the US and EU argued that the underdeveloped countries should pull down remaining tariff barriers against their agricultural exports.

In the EU and US the bulk of the subsidies are paid to large agribusinesses and big landowners. The failure of the Doha round reflects the rivalry between US and EU capitalism and the refusal of the poor countries of the world to endorse their own economic and social annihilation under the rule of multinational corporate power. Imperialism will now proceed to try and impose trade deals on individual countries, playing one off against the other.
Trevor Rayne

FRFI 193 October / November 2006


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