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It could have been a monumental achievement, a round of trade negotiations that could act as an engine of development and poverty-reduction.
Instead, at the end of July, the head of World Trade Organization announced that the Doha "Development Round" of trade talks between rich and poor countries had been suspended. Five years of haggling and debate delivered nothing short of failure.
Most of the blame lies with the rich countries. The US and EU chose self-interest over fair trade rules. They refused to cut harmful agriculture subsidies, or give developing countries better access to their markets. At the same time, they demanded that developing countries pry open their markets in a way that could damage development.
Doha fell short. But Oxfam supporters helped make history by changing the terms of the debate. Together, we helped to keep the concerns of poor people at the heart of negotiations.
"While we are deeply disappointed at the failure of the trade talks, we ought to be very proud of the enormous amount of dedicated work and efforts invested by the entire Oxfam family—supporters, staff, activists, students, partners and allies—in this noble campaign," said Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.
- Five years after it was launched, Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign helped prevent a trade agreement that could have seriously undermined development and anti-poverty efforts. Early drafts of Doha could have been disastrous for poor countries. But Oxfam's campaign, along with those of our allies, helped derail that train.
- The campaign contributed to the rise of developing country negotiating blocs such as the G20, G33, and G110. Rich countries must now contend with formidable coalitions who are looking out for the interests of poor people.
- Rich countries have been forced to include development concerns as part of the discussion around trade issues. Trade negotiators must now consider the impacts of their decisions on poor people.
- More than 20 million people around the world—teachers, seamstresses, doctors, farmers—signed Oxfam's Big Noise petition to Make Trade Fair. Other signers include celebrities such as Bono and Nelson Mandela, each standing in solidarity and support of better trade rules.
Despite this latest disappointment, Oxfam's work on trade continues. We are campaigning against trade agreements that threaten agriculture, health, and sustainable development, such as the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement and the US-Thailand Free Trade Agreement. We are campaigning to reform agriculture subsidies that lead to dumping in poor countries through next year's Farm Bill. And we are continuing our campaign to get poor countries better access to rich country markets.
It's an ambitious trade agenda. But for developing countries and poor people, the agenda they require.
"Make Trade Fair is about giving poor countries a hand up in the trade game. The poorest countries are falling far behind and losing the opportunity to grow," said Gawain Kripke, senior policy advisor at Oxfam America. "Oxfam and our millions of supporters are committed to keep pushing so we can offer hope to people who want to work their way out of poverty."