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Lobby groups raise food issue ahead of WTO summit

Two development aid groups Friday called on the Swiss government to defend the rights of poor nations at the upcoming world trade summit, saying many people in developing nations had yet to see the benefits of trade liberalisation.

This content was published on October 15, 1999 - 15:55

Two development aid groups Friday called on the Swiss government to defend the rights of poor nations at the upcoming world trade summit, saying many people in developing nations had yet to see the benefits of trade liberalisation.

The Berne Declaration and Swissaid told a news conference in Berne that the World Trade Organisation had so far ignored the negative impact of trade liberalisation and had turned a blind eye to the needs of people living in developing nations, particularly in the food and agriculture sector.

The statement came as the Swiss government was preparing for the November 30 WTO ministerial summit in the United States. The 134 member states, including Switzerland, will meet in Seattle to discuss the next round of international trade liberalisation, known as the Millennium round.

The Swiss lobby groups want industrialised member states of the WTO to open their markets to products from developing nations, particularly in the agriculture sector.

At the same time, poor nations should be allowed to protect their markets from the influx of cheap – and often subsidised – surplus products from industrialised nations, the groups say.

Berne Declaration and Swissaid also came out against patenting animal and plant life, saying this kind of economic power -- concentrated in the hands of a few companies – was undermining the chances of poor nations ever becoming competitive in international markets.

In Seattle, the United States delegation is widely expected to call for the further opening of world markets in goods, services and agriculture.

Swiss Economics Minister Pascal Couchepin echoed the U.S. position during his visit to Washington in July, underlining the need to foster cooperation in trade, finance and environmental protection.

Couchepin has invited representatives of 24 WTO nations to Switzerland in ten days’ time for an exchange of views ahead of the Seattle summit.

From staff and wire reports.




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