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8572: China: Trade policies keep LDCs poor. Haiti's rice market mentioned

From: Max Blanchet <maxblanchet@worldnet.att.net>

China Daily; Jul 6, 2001

Trade restrictions imposed by rich countries are costing the world's poorest
"a staggering US$2.5 billion a year in lost foreign exchange earnings," says
Oxfam International, a non-governmental organization committed to fighting
poverty and injustice around the world.

In a 27-page report entitled "Rigged Trade and Not Much Aid: How Rich
Countries Help to Keep the Least Developed Countries Poor," to be presented
at the NGO Forum in advance of the UN Conference on Least Developed
Countries (LDCs), Oxfam warns that Western governments are guilty of
offering "empty promises" to the poor when it comes to trade, aid and debt

Oxfam Senior Policy Adviser Kevin Watkins, who will present the report,
says: "On trade, the industrialized countries have operated a policy of
highway robbery masquerading as market access preferences."

The United States and Canada are identified as the "worst offenders," with
Bangladesh losing US$7 from trade restrictions for every US$1 it receives in
US aid and five times that for every dollar it receives from Canada.

At a time when aid to the developing world has fallen to its lowest level
since the early 1970s, around 11 per cent of exports from LDCs face "tariff
peaks" in excess of 10 per cent, which is three times the share of imports
affected from other countries.

"In areas where they have a capacity to export, LDCs face higher tariffs
than other countries, including developed market economies," the report

Average tariffs in the European Union, the United States, Canada and Japan -
the so-called Quad countries, which account for over half the world's
trade - are relatively low, at approximately 5 per cent.

"However, the average obscures very high tariffs in sectors of most
relevance to poor countries. Tariffs on some agricultural products are more
than 300 per cent in the EU and, in the case of ground nuts, over 100 per
cent in the US," it says.

While the European Union's "Everything but Arms" proposal for providing duty
and quota-free access to LDCs by 2009 represents a bold step in the right
direction, intensive lobbying resulted in key agricultural items - rice,
sugar and beef - being removed from the proposal.

In Europe, total duty-free access would increase exports from LDCs by US$185
million, with sugar accounting for over 60 per cent of the gain, according
to Oxfam's research. But the ''Everything but Arms'' initiative was watered
down into ''Everything but Farms,'' says Watkins. ''The clear message from
Brussels to the LDCs was that powerful industrial lobbies come first, and
poverty second.''

While the doors to Northern markets remain shut, many LDCs have been
liberalizing at breakneck speed, often under International Monetary Fund and
World Bank auspices.

"The results have often been disastrous. In Haiti, the liberalization of the
rice market and subsequent surge in subsidized US imports has destroyed
thousands of livelihoods and undermined national food security," the report

In such labour-intensive areas as textiles, footwear and agriculture,
production for export growth has the potential to generate more equitable
patterns of economic growth, "creating employment and livelihood
opportunities for highly vulnerable populations," the report noted.

"The problem is that trade policies in industrialized countries are
carefully designed to prevent LDCs from taking advantage of export
opportunities," it said.

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