Cancun Trade Talks Collapse Over Rich-Poor Rift
Sun September 14, 2003 04:40 PM ET
By Patrick Lannin and Richard Waddington
CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Trade talks in Mexico critical to the health of the world economy collapsed on Sunday after rich and poor states failed to bridge deep divisions over agriculture and investment rules, delegates said.
They said a meeting of key ministers broke up in disarray after developing countries rejected a demand by the 15-nation European Union for talks to start on global trade rules in investment and three other new areas.
"Talks have collapsed and there is no agreement," George Ongwen, a Kenyan delegate, told reporters.
The 146 members of the World Trade Organization had been hoping to find enough common ground in Cancun to inject fresh impetus into negotiations on a global trade pact for which they had set themselves a deadline of the end of next year.
Instead, the talks crumbled on Sunday afternoon.
Delegates could not agree how fast to dismantle $300 billion in subsidies that rich states pay their farmers or find a way round the EU's insistence that poor states begin talks on new rules on investment, competition, government procurement and cutting red tape that holds up trade.
"The conference has failed. There was no agreement," said Martin Redrado, Argentina's chief negotiator at the talks.
He said the failure meant the WTO would be unable to conclude a market-opening pact by the end of 2004 that the World Bank said would add as much as $520 billion to global incomes by 2015, lifting 144 million people out of poverty.
Rafidah Aziz, Malaysia's trade minister, blamed the failure of the talks on the refusal of rich countries to heed the objections of the developing world.
"They kept demanding things that others couldn't deliver," she said.