Green Times No.19 (Lusaka), July 2004

“Developing countries may decide to focus on trade among themselves rather than with their richer counterparts, if developed counties don’t break down trade barriers.” Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said at the inaugural session of the 11th Conference of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The Conference, which meets every four years, is the highest policy making body of the 192 member UN body shaping the debated on crucial point of trade and development intersect.

The Conference emphasized that poor countries must also eliminate trade barriers among themselves to increase their share of world trade.

Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS-ARC) attended the UNCTAD XI meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil where Zambia was represented by the Minister of Trade, Commerce land Industry, Hon. Dipark Patel.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan echoed the voice of civil society on the issue of farm trade liberalisation.

“I share your concern about agricultural and other subsidies in the developed world that create unfair competition, and about how hard it is for developing-country goods to gain access to rich-country markets”, Annan Said.

CUTS-ARC is a Non Governmental Organisation, which is engaged in policy research training, foreign direct investment, consumer protection and capacity building activities on economic, trade and environmental issues with a special focus on South-to-South cooperation. CUTS, the parent body of CUTS-ARC is an international civil society organisation having its head office in India. CUTS is affiliated to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) based Geneva. Consumers International in London and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi.

It was agriculture which caused the debacle at the WTO in Cancun in last September and since then efforts are being made to bring convergence over this contentious issue but with a little success. Several rounds of discussions have been held between the two major groups – EU and US on the one side and G-20 on the one other.

The Civil Society Forum in their declaration to UNCTAD XI expressed deep concern over the collapse of the commodity economy.

The Forum called for global policy responses including the active involvement of UNCTAD to address problems caused by market failure. It recommended the creation and management of multilateral mechanisms to regulate and support international markets for agricultural products.