Letter: Poor nations left out

Sir: I agree with your leading article (6 December) that the collapse of the World Trade Organisation talks is a missed opportunity for the world's poor. They would indeed have made gains through the talks if industrialised nations had agreed to open their markets to developing-country exports and had tackled the issue of agricultural export subsidies.

As it was, the rich world could not even agree to offer tariff-free access for the exports of the very poorest countries, which account for only a tiny percentage (0.4 per cent) of world trade. Even this would have constituted little more than a modest gesture towards the poorer members by the powerful trading nations that dominate the WTO.

A positive outcome for the world's poor from future negotiations will depend upon developing countries continuing to bargain hard. But in addition, the WTO must change the way it does business, so that the US and EU address the concerns of poor countries, by changing their protectionist policies, to make the international trading system fairer.

This would create the possibility of trade becoming the basis, in the words of your editorial, of "prosperity, security and environmental protection for all" - an outcome that everybody claims to seek.


Director, Oxfam