The Gatt Deal: Seeds sown for clashes with the Third World

MOST of the Third World is expected to benefit from the Gatt agreement, but Africa will be unable to take advantage from trade liberalisation and may lose from provisions to globalise the patenting of plants and seeds.

Developing countries, led by India and Malaysia, have complained that the agreement has not gone far enough and that rich nations are prepared to concede far more to each other than they are to poorer nations. The developing countries want a strong multilateral trade organisation to act as a court of appeal in disputes with the United States and the European Union.

Apart from these anxieties, this Gatt round demonstrated that since the last round of supranational trade talks in the late 1970s, most poor countries have developed their economies sufficiently to enjoy new trading opportunities. It shows that the Third World is not an undifferentiated economic condition embracing Asia, Africa and Latin America. Under the new agreement, Asia's cheap skilled labour will attract foreign investment and its textiles will find new markets. Latin America and the Caribbean will attract outside investment in new industries and find it easier to export manufactured goods.

Only Africa does not have the means to exploit the opportunities for trade. There are no new markets for the continent's primary products, which continue to fall in price. Africa's few manufactured goods are mainly exported to Europe under the Lome Convention, but this quota system will be dismantled under the new Gatt deal and Africa may lose out to comparable goods from Asia or Latin America.

A recent report by the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Bank predicts a fall in the price of cocoa and coffee, products which some African countries depend upon for foreign exchange. The report says that the coffee price will fall by 6.1 per cent by 2002 and the price of cocoa by 4 per cent. These price falls will cost Africa pounds 2bn a year by that date. The report forecasts a global rise in the price of some foodstuffs which may hurt some African countries dependent on food imports. It predicts that farmers in developing countries will not be able to benefit from this price rise unless they improve yields.

Calling for compensation for the world's poorest countries that lose out in the new Gatt, a recent Christian Aid pamphlet says that the terms of trade have turned against Africa so severely that in 1992 it had to export 37 per cent more of its products than in 1980 to buy the same amount of imports. Christian Aid calls on the European Union to protect the poorest members of the Lome Convention from the effects of the new Gatt.

Sheila Page, Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, says: 'Africa is not going to gain . . . It is not exporting anything which is likely to gain in price. Every other region is likely to gain from the Gatt but Africa will be standing still - and will therefore be falling further behind. Its only hope is that there will be a more imports of primary products, but even if that happens their price won't go up as much as other goods.'

The global patenting of seeds and plants may have more serious long- term implications for less developed countries. The example of the Neem tree in India illustrates the potential clash between chemical and agricultural giants in the United States and Europe, and traditional farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In July thousands of farmers in Bangalore took to the streets to protest against the US chemical firm, W R Grace and Co, because the company had patented pesticides from the Neem tree. These trees have been planted and tended for centuries for agricultural and medicinal purposes.

The farmers argued that Grace's patent on the tree, which could become a global patent under the new Gatt, will prevent them using it. Grace and Co argued that their products from the tree were 'sufficiently new' to warrant a patent. The issue has implications wherever traditional medicines are used. There are fears that by registering these plants, multinational companies could prevent their use by local people or their development by local scientists.

The patenting of plants is crucial in agriculture. According to a report by the Overseas Development Institute, productive or pest-resistent strains of seeds have been developed by co-operation between commercial plant-breeders and local farmers. That co-operation is under threat because under global patent laws provided for in the new Gatt, small farmers in developing countries will have to pay royalties on seeds developed by seed companies and will not be allowed to resow commercially produced and patented strains or even strains mixed with patented brands.

News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor