Focus: Trade Wars - The superpower elite that sidelines the poorest nations
Sunday 18 July 1999
Little has changed at the WTO. Some 30 of its 134 members still can't afford to base anyone in Geneva, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Others, such as Bangladesh, have just one official for WTO issues. Geneva was allowed to keep the WTO after the Uruguay Round because Switzerland promised to finance a low-rent centre for developing country governments. Nearly six years later this has still to materialise.
The WTO is aware of the problems poor nations have in coping with the trade bureaucracy, and is setting up computer links to the WTO from the least developed countries. However, according to Claudia Orozco, a Colombian trade official, "the problem is not a lack of information but too much of it". Apart from the reams of documents produced by the WTO only comprehensible to experts, there are some 40 committee meetings held at its HQ every week. "It's like a multiplex cinema. You turn up and decide which film you are going to watch," said another official from a developing country. Rich countries boost their Geneva presence by flying in experts whenever meetings become technical, a luxury none of the developing nations can afford.
The inequalities of the system become even more apparent when a developing country runs into a trade dispute with a rich nation. One of the reasons Latin American countries let the US fight their case with the EU over the banana trade was because they couldn't afford the legal costs involved. Colombia is spearheading a campaign to set up a "legal aid" centre for trade matters for developing countries. The UK is one of a handful of countries to have contributed to a fund to finance the project, but other OECD countries have not yet offered their support.
Sometimes being poor can have its advantages. The Bangladesh ambassador to Geneva, Dr Iftekhar Chowdhury, last week successfully brokered a deal in which the new WTO leadership is likely to be shared between Supachai Panitchpakdi of Thailand and Mike Moore of New Zealand.
Life & Style blogs
Holocaust Memorial Day: 70 years since Auschwitz liberation, these are the stories of survivors
Double chins could be 'cured' without surgery or dieting using new injection
Snapchat got rid of the Best Friends feature and 'stalkers' are upset
Hershey's angers US chocolate purists by forcing company to stop importing 'yummy' Cadbury bars
Food secrets: the good, the bad...and the faeces
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Mystery man who gave mum heart-warming note on train 'wanted to put a smile on her face'
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...
£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...