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
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
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

Automation Test Lead (C#, Selenium, SQL, XML, Web-Services)

£50000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Automation Tes...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Long Term Primary Teacher - Stockport - Start ASAP

£90 - £135 per day: Randstad Education Manchester Primary: Experienced Primary...

Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Science Teacher - South Es...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering