Ministers from 150 countries belonging to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which succeeded the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt), are to discuss cutting tariffs and reducing protection.
But in a report published today, The Lands that Trade Forgot, Christian Aid argues that the opening up of markets has helped only the richer countries. Peter Madden, the report's co-author, said: "There is no level playing field in international trade. Christian Aid believes there must be action to support poor countries if they are to become independent members of the global economic family."
The 48 poorest countries have 12 per cent of the world's population but only 0.4 per cent of global trade.
Ian Lang, President of the Board of Trade, who is leading the British delegation, said the Government wants greater freeing up of trade, although business leaders have argued for consolidating existing deals.