Cuba, Venezuela criticize WTO decisions about developing countries

Cuba and Venezuela criticized the decision-making process of the World Trade Organization, saying a few states are forcing through agreements despite opposition from many developing countries. In a document made public Friday, the two countries said the adoption of a treaty at December's Hong Kong meeting was pushed through against the opposition of several of the WTO's 149 members and undermined the organization's credibility.

"A number of procedures were implemented to seek consensus, which did not have the support of all members, and in many cases received the manifest disagreement of a majority of developing countries," said the statement, which was distributed to other delegations earlier this week.

"However, with the support of some members, they were imposed by decision of the secretariat, which thus exceeds its functions," Cuba and Venezuela added, noting that only two formal, on-the-record meetings were held during the six-day conference.

Members failed to reach their initial objective for the Hong Kong ministerial meeting of setting precise formulas for cutting tariffs and subsidies, leaving little time before a final, year-end deadline for concluding the Doha round, launched in Qatar's capital in 2001.

There were a series of meetings, both in the run up to Hong Kong and during the conference, between a few major players, including the United States , European Union and Brazil , which sought to move the talks forward.

Cuba and Venezuela expressed reservations about the adoption of the agreement on industrial tariffs and services industries on the last day of the Hong Kong meeting. The objections were noted, but both countries still agreed to the declaration. In particular, they said, the text on services was adopted despite "sustained rejection" by a significant number of members.

"The process of adoption of the ministerial declaration in Hong Kong can be considered to have been an unfavorable exercise to maintain confidence in the WTO at any cost and to enable the assertion that this organization can guarantee conditions that translate into tangible and sustainable economic results for developing countries," the Cuban and Venezuelan statement added.

In particular, the two countries criticized the two-year gap between WTO ministerial conferences, during which "no progress or substantive agreements are made." Yet it is still expected that a complicated agreement will be reached in the few weeks surrounding the meeting, they said. "This is particularly difficult and puts countries with small delegations at a negotiating disadvantage, as they lack sufficient capacity to react to the large amount of documents circulated and meetings convened," the statement added, reports the AP.

N.U.

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