Hewitt urges last-minute deal on world trade

NEGOTIATORS WERE working into the night to prevent opposition by both rich and poor countries from scuppering a deal to open up world markets.

NEGOTIATORS WERE working into the night to prevent opposition by both rich and poor countries from scuppering a deal to open up world markets.

Ministers from the 147 members of the World Trade Organisation were locked in talks over a deal that would form the basis for detailed negotiations on a new global agreement.

But a final draft triggered accusations by poor countries and anti-poverty campaign groups of a "stitch-up" by rich nations.

Countries were set a "drop dead-line" of midnight last night to agree a framework for negotiations - although hopes of wrapping it up on time were fading. Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said it was "most unlikely" a deal would be done before today. "But I am hopeful that we can agree on a framework across the WTO before the end of the weekend," she said.

She urged countries to sign up to an agreement despite mounting rumours of opposition from some of the world's poorest countries. "I hope that over the next 24 hours everybody will bear in mind that if we do not get a negotiating framework in place now, then work will stop for the next six to nine months," she said.

The US presidential elections in November and a reshuffle of European Commission portfolios in the autumn mean the world's two most powerful trading blocs will be without a trade chief until next year.

Ms Hewitt added: "We cannot guarantee that we will be able to pick up where we would have left off here."

Supachai Panitchpakdi, the head of the WTO, told reporters: "A number of delegations saw improvements, but I have to admit it hangs in the balance."

Ministers were handed a final draft yesterday morning by WTO officials who had worked overnight on Thursday to incorporate proposals by five of the world's most powerful trading blocs aimed at tackling the key issue of farm subsidies.

The 20-page blueprint called for the elimination of farm export subsidies and sets out other principles for reforming agricultural trade - a key demand by developing countries.

It also laid down guidelines for opening up business in industrial goods and services and for launching negotiations on a customs code, as the richer countries would like.

But the wording has run into criticism from both France, which says it goes too far in cutting farm aid, and from developing nations angered by a lack of progress in meeting their demands.

Observers at the WTO's Geneva headquarters said France had reaffirmed its objections to a deal that would see the elimination of all export farm subsidies during a four-hour meeting of European ministers.

However, France lost the support of Italy and Germany, which voiced its support of the plan ahead of the UK, which has traditionally been the most vocal advocate of reform.

Pressure groups said developing countries were angry that their concerns over issues such as market access and subsidies for cotton had not been taken on board.

Moussa Faye, a Senegalese campaigner with ActionAid, said African countries were angry that the contentious issue of cotton subsidies had been wrapped into agriculture.

The US pays $3bn a year in aid to its cotton farmers and countries such as Burkino Faso that cannot compete with subsidised American cotton are demanding reform. "There is no specific commitment to deal with cotton and that's not good enough," Mr Faye said. He said that "logically" West African nations should block the deal. "But the WTO operates in secret and there's a lot of pressurising and arm-twisting," he said.

Celine Charveriat, head of Oxfam's Geneva office, said the deal on offer was "unacceptable" for poor countries. "The text on agriculture does little to address the problem of export dumping, instead introducing dangerous loopholes for yet more subsidies from the US."

Consumers International, a lobby group, accused the rich countries of extending a clause that grants them protection against challenges to farm payments under WTO rules. The protection was meant to expire this year. "It is a licence for the big powers to break the rules," Robin Simpson, its senior policy adviser, said. "We call for immediate clarification."

Meanwhile Kenya and other members of the G90 group of poor states are resisting demands by rich countries that they should sign up to new rules on customs and import procedures aimed at stamping out corruption.

The issue, known as trade facilitation, was one of four so-called "new issues" that contributed to the collapse of the last major WTO summit in Cancun, Mexico, last autumn.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Helpdesk Analyst

£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...

Senior Helpdesk Analyst / Service Desk Co-ordinator

£27000 per annum + pension, 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ind...

Senior Pensions Administrator

£23000 - £26000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Administrator

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Corporate Actions Administrator / Operations Admini...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London