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Cancun Talks Breakdown Renews Calls for Fair Treatment

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Contact: John Emmanuel

Monday, September 22, 2003 - Another call has been echoed here for the levelling of the playing field in relation to trade liberalization issues. It has come from St. Lucia’s Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senator the Honourable Calixte George, who returned to the island last week. He expressed disappointment over the breakdown of the latest round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks which took place in Cancun, Mexico. These negotiations were seen as critical in advancing the regional position on the DOHA Development Agenda.

Minister George who was a significant member of St. Lucia’s delegation at the talks said he was dismayed at the level of non-compliance on the part of the larger countries to issues confronting smaller and less developed states, like special and differential treatment.

“In my speech to the Plenary,” said Minister George, “I emphasised the point that in St. Lucia’s case we were virtually disabled, inherently incapacitated compared to other countries. Therefore if one is incapacitated you cannot be treated as a normal person and I alluded to the fact that you cannot have a man with one leg competing with a normal athlete and therefore we should have our own Special Olympics that deals with the disabled countries.”

Minister George said that his disappointment was further compounded by what he termed “the lack of transparency which characterized a large portion of the talks.” Another vexing concern he explained were issues of particular interest to the developed world which were pushed high up on the agenda, issues such as competition, trade facilitation and government procurements.

“These were issues that were raised a long time ago and they were supposed to have had some explicit consensus on moving forward with those issues. However the modalities for moving forward had not been worked out so there was no way in which we could enter into negotiations on those matters. Yet they wanted us to enter into negotiations on those issues, for example, government procurement. This is a matter that’s very ticklish in terms of how you allow virtual freedom to any nation entering your procurement processes.”

Senator George went on to dismiss as unfounded claims from the developed countries that the Caribbean’s position on many of the issues at the Mexico meeting, emanated from aid agencies and powerful non-governmental organizations. He said instead that the Caribbean made significant contributions to the general African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group along with the Group of 77 on the issues to be dealt with.

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