11 September 2003 Edition

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Can do needed at Cancun

BY ROBBIE SMYTH

AGRICULTURE MINISTER Joe Walsh leads the Dublin Government delegation at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, which began in Cancun, Mexico yesterday. With him are, no doubt, the lobby documents from Irish employers and farming groups. Employers want more deregulation and access to markets, while farming groups want no more cuts in the amount of agricultural subsidies they receive.

These are interests that Walsh must represent, but not at any cost. These are the first international trade talks, since the inaugural GATT agreement was reached in 1948, which have put the interests of developing states on the international trade agenda.

We assume that the minister is well versed in statistics, such as the fact that more than 2.7 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Does he know, though, that the very same people live in states that face double the trade barriers we in the more wealthy states have to contend with?

One wonders does Walsh also know that the total farm subsidies of the wealthier states like the US and EU are greater than the wealth created annually in the whole of Africa?

There are, no doubt, many other similar statistics, but they are all meaningless without government commitment to fair trade. Last week, speaking at Sinn Fein's Munster EU selection convention, party president Gerry Adams called on the Dublin Government to put issues such as debt cancellation and fair trade at the centre of the coming EU presidency and in the negotiations on a new EU constitution.

This week is the first test of whether the coalition government is committed to these principles.


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