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Jeremy Corbyn: I think it is a matter not of either/or but of both. One is that the west does not sufficiently respect the wishes and needs of the poorest countries and, in addition, when faced with a battery of corporate lawyers lobbying for corporate interests or extremely efficient and well-paid lawyers batting for national Governments or western national interests, they are not at the races. The issue is how we treat people and what
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respect we have. If we are serious about the development round and lifting the poorest people in Burkina Faso and elsewhere out of poverty, we must talk to them to find out what we are doing that is making their lives so much worse. We should think carefully about that.

The dominating issue is food dumping. Several hon. Members referred to the fact that only 3 per cent. of world trade is in agriculture. That is absolutely true and the effect of food dumping on the US or EU economies is not great, but its effect is massive on the poorest countries of the world. I shall give two personal examples. Bringing personal examples to debates such as this often makes the situation more real.

Last year, I went to Angola as part of an Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation to observe a co-operative farm that had been opened on a former sugar plantation. It was growing fruit and, as far as I could see, it was doing well and the farmers were working hard and making it an enormous success, but the price that they received for the fruit was such a joke that it was not worth picking the fruit off the trees. There was little internal market for it and if the co-operative could raise the capital—it probably could—to convert that fruit into processed fruit, jam, juice and so on, where would it sell the produce? Who would buy it and who would allow it to be sold? Those farmers were trying to improve matters, but were faced with an insurmountable barrier that prevented them from doing so.

More recently, in July, I attended the Congolese elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an observer on behalf of a group of NGOs, led by Christian Aid. Before the elections, I spent some time talking to a group of farmers in Bas-Congo in the south at a meeting organised by the local Catholic church and it was interesting talking to them. This is not the poorest area of the Congo by any means, but it is very poor by any stretch of the imagination and certainly in comparison with anything we know. I asked what the farming was like and the farmers immediately raised the issue of EU food dumping. People who tried to develop chicken farms and so on were put out of business because cheap chicken—they said that it was of poor quality, but I do not know because I did not see any of it—was being dumped on their market and virtually given away. What is the chance of their developing any kind of agriculture if no one will buy their produce? They would have to sell it in competition with stuff that is dumped by the USA or western Europe, so what is the point? That is the consequence of our happily voting for enormous subsidies for European farmers to produce an excessive amount of meat and so on that we dump on third-world markets. The USA is doing exactly the same through its agriculture programme.

I do not want to ruin the career of the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) or destroy his hopes for the future, but I agree that there is a case for some agricultural subsidies in Britain, particularly for hill farmers and so on. However, there is not a case for dumping food on the poorest people around the world because the consequences are appalling. I hope that in the forthcoming round we can do something about that.

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Hugh Bayley: I was with my hon. Friend in the Congo during the elections. Does he agree that whatever the outcome of a WTO round, the EU has it in its power to abandon export subsidies—to stop exporting produce that has been subsidised in a protected EU market? We have the ability to abandon that on our own and it does not have to form part of the negotiations. Let us hope that we get a deal and that it forms part of the negotiations, but if we do not, does he agree that our Government should be pressing for those exports subsidies to be abandoned unilaterally by the EU?

Jeremy Corbyn: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We had an interesting visit to the Congo. I was interested in meeting that farming group and we saw other exciting agricultural developments that had made limited progress. The farmers can produce subsistence food and do so extremely well in areas around Kinshasa, but they cannot go beyond that because they cannot compete with ludicrously dumped food. I agree with my hon. Friend that the EU does not have to wait for a WTO agreement or the neanderthal forces in the US Congress and Senate to move before saying, “We are not doing it. There is a moral imperative not to do it because it is simply wrong.” We could do that; we could be unilateral about it. I am in favour of unilateralism in some respects, but I shall not digress at the moment. Perhaps I shall later.

What lies behind the issue? The second part of the agenda is non-agricultural market access. That is really what the agenda is all about. Although we want services to develop and improve, I suspect that behind the issue is non-agricultural market access and the privatisation of public services in many of the poorest countries in the world. There is a huge drive towards it, and we must recognise our duty to ensure that we pursue no longer the ludicrous policy of food dumping. That in itself will improve development prospects, because agricultural access is important in the poorest countries in the world.

We should not regard the situation as the chance to play a bargaining chip, whereby we agree not to dump food in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola or any other country, in return for their opening up public services to western companies to take over and use for competition. No country in the world has reached the power and wealth of Japan, Britain, Malaysia, the United States or any European country without standing behind a tough, protective barrier. Consider the protectionism that Japan practised from 1945 onwards to promote its development. Who are we to say to the poorest countries in Africa that they cannot use protection to develop local import-substitution industries, or other industries beyond?

The Minister probably agrees with most of that, but one problem is that our powers are limited. Here we are in the House of Commons debating the World Trade Organisation with our Minister, who will reply to the debate. However, the European Union undertakes the negotiations on behalf of member states. I am sure that every Government in the European Union told the equivalent of the Trade Justice Movement how much they agreed with it in the run-up to the Hong Kong round, but it always seems a curious system of accountability that the sum total of 25 EU members’
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wishes and agreements was no agreement. The sum total was less than that, and we may have to address the question of EU structures and accountability.

We live in a world where there is a huge division between rich and poor, internally in particular countries and globally. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, North said, there has been growth in a middle-income group of 20 countries, and they have become a powerful negotiating bloc. I do not complain about it; in some ways, it is a welcome development. I do complain about the way in which the poorest countries are left out. The millennium development goals have been set down. They are ambitious and welcome. They include access to health, clean water and education. All those developments are clear and welcome.

The reality is that in country after country in the poorest parts of Africa, however, illiteracy and death rates are rising, and AIDS levels are getting worse. There are some places where things are getting better rapidly, but are we sure that the goals will be met in the DRC, Angola and other countries? I do not condemn the Government’s aid programme—far from it. The programme has been very good in many ways, but unless we start to treat those countries fairly, stop dumping food on them, which prevents local agricultural development, and stop developing trade practices that prevent their industrial development, we will remain part of the problem that creates shanty towns around every major capital city throughout Africa. Let us approach the next round with the moral purpose of trying to eliminate poverty throughout the world. Trade is a very important part of that.

3.54 pm

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): The Minister has heard a passionate series of speeches and a passionate debate. Members have expressed an almost universal disillusion with the fact that a round as important as the Doha development round should have crashed into a brick wall. It is suspended.

I came to this portfolio in the spring and it was like watching a slow-motion train crash. In meeting after meeting, people desperately tried to claw together an agreement, but they had to give ground. There were statements of hope, but in the end we reached the point where we now remain. I join other people who have little hope for the revival of that process.

It says little about the developed world that the US and the EU, two great trading blocs, should have acted as if protectionism were an important strand of their economic survival. The economic areas that they attempted to protect were marginal, amounting to less than 5 per cent. in almost every case. We must be honest: the game played by the US and EU has been not economic, but political to protect marginal votes in marginal constituencies, whether by the United States with its congressional elections, and its presidential election in 2008, or by the French and other European Governments.

John Battle: The Germans.

Susan Kramer: The Germans, too. The game has been played to protect aspects of the farm vote, or certain sectors of the manufacturing vote. It has not been played to take a stance because core and critical economic issues were at risk. Ultimately, that is a disgrace.

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Like others who have spoken today, I must stand apart from the NGOs, which have sometimes viewed the collapse of the Doha round with some satisfaction. The hon. Member for Glasgow, North (Ann McKechin) tackled the NGOs’ view that no deal is better than a bad deal, pointing out that we are looking at a formula for a regression to protectionism. That is echoed not only in the NGO world, but in developing countries. My right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), the Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development, pointed out that it is a loss not only for the developed and developing world, but for free trade. The momentum and the arguments for the benefits of free trade have been brought into disrepute, and that puts at risk all who believe that an enterprise culture is essential to our economic development and that of some of the poorest countries on the planet. However, the NGOs’ view is understandable.

Thanks to CAFOD, I visited Geneva and talked to many of the leaders of the different G groups, the G30, the G90, the least developed countries group and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries group. They were attempting to get involved in the negotiations that were part of the Doha round. During May and June, each leader told me that the issues on the table were those that mattered to the EU and the US. The agenda was theirs. Most discussions seem to have been about sensitive, state products, which were for developed not developing countries. Many discussions happened in what was thought to be a breakthrough context: the green room. However, it has no agenda and no public report follows. Typically, one representative member of the LDC group, or similar, is invited to attend, but has no status in the discussion.

One could see that what was initially sold as a developing-country round—including the contract whereby the developed world would finally tackle developing issues, promote trade in advance in developing countries, and move towards a trading network that would give them new opportunities—would be sidelined and tagged on the end of the agreement. As for the non-agricultural market access issues, which are huge and complex, no one had even started on them. That was in June and early July.

I am an unapologetic free trader. In the early days of Doha we had the potential to set free trade as the ultimate goal while providing within it a structure and framework for developing countries to build their trading capacity so that they, as well as the developed countries, could use that free trade effectively. It is crucial to recognise that that goal would never have been achieved by Doha alone: with it there would have had to be aid for trade and a series of other agreements and structures.

I urge the Government to examine whether they can revive the Doha trade round, but I do not have a great deal of hope. One of the worst possible outcomes would be a terribly compressed negotiation period and a repeat of the past experiences whereby the agenda of the US and the EU has dominated until the last 30 seconds and the development agenda was dragged in only at the very end. The strategy must be to get from the US Government an extension of the fast-track process rather than to squeeze the Doha negotiation into the period between the end of the congressional elections and January. I believe that six months’ notice
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must be given to Congress of a Bill using the fast-track process, so that would be near impossible.

Our Government are said to have a special relationship with the United States and they have in many senses put themselves on the line for George Bush. Doha is surely a matter on which they ought to be able to get a Republican President to spend some political capital, at least after the congressional elections are over. I do not have a great deal of hope, but that is a strategy that I hope the Government will at least attempt to pursue.

John Bercow: Does the hon. Lady agree with those who have said that if an extension of fast-track authority is not forthcoming, there is a powerful case for unilateral initiatives to be taken by the richest countries on Earth to assist the poorest?

Susan Kramer: When plan A is not available, one had better have plan B. I am a banker by trade and we never offer a loan unless we believe that there are at least two ways out of it, and preferably three. That is a good rationale for dealing with such policies: we must have a plan B. That must be to take advantage of all our other opportunities.

The economic partnership agreements have been mentioned by a number of hon. Members.

Hugh Bayley: Before the hon. Lady moves on to EPAs, does she agree that the business community is part of the equation that has been missing so far in the debate? At the end of the Uruguay round, after years of paralysis, business said, “We need a deal so badly that you”—the French Government and the EU—“had better face down the farmers and start modifying the common agricultural policy.” Perhaps one of the failures of the Doha round is that it has not offered enough to western business so that it can sort the farmers out. Perhaps we need to make sure that something more is available in a reshaped round so that we can make progress.

Susan Kramer: I find the hon. Gentleman’s comment interesting. There is a case to be argued that business tends to be parochial in using its incredibly powerful lobbying influence. In a debate earlier today the House discussed Heathrow, and it strikes me as incredible what the business community can achieve despite the feelings of local residents. It ought therefore to be able to take on the farming community with relative ease. With a few honourable exceptions, it is a matter on which the business community could do a great deal more.

I had intended not to move on to economic partnership agreements and ignore everything else but to say that we need to use every lever available to at least demonstrate our intentions to the developing world, whether those intentions are for unilateral action by the EU or otherwise. The context of EPAs is interesting because they present an opportunity to create template agreements that would open up markets without constraint and deal with the fascinating point made by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow). He said that about 330
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items that are key to the developing world are excluded from the basic duty-free, quota-free access for the least developed countries. Moreover, countries that have moved into the middle range should be able to sell, tariff-free, not just raw agricultural products, such as cocoa, but those such as refined chocolate or instant coffee. I do not consider Brazil, China and India to be in that range; they are off on their own and can fight their own battles successfully. If such opportunities are grasped in the EPA negotiations, it could start to create genuine templates and provide the opportunity to build on the fundamental aid for trade strategy that we have discussed.

I am most concerned that aid for trade should not be allowed to fall into a pit as have other development strategies or be a fad and fashion that comes and goes. The arena in question is incredibly fashionista: the strategy of one year seems to disappear and be replaced with something else the next, which is no way to achieve development. I am also conscious that discussions on aid for trade have so far been narrowly focused. I have spoken to representatives of the Windward Islands, who said that aid for trade will help the promotion of urban opportunities, but that there is no attempt to understand the need for stability in the rural communities where the banana industry will largely disappear and rural substitutes and new agricultural opportunities are needed. Aid for trade has tended to be narrowly defined, but as the hon. Member for Glasgow, North, pointed out, infrastructure is needed.

I have also had the opportunity to go with Christian Aid to India, a country that is always held up as an example of what trade and development will do. We are told to go to India and see the benefits flowing to the population. That is true for about 15 per cent. of the population, and some benefit has flowed to about another 30 per cent. Nobody would deny the importance and momentum of that, but about 50 per cent. of the population has not benefited. It has either missed altogether the benefits of expanding trade and development, or it has lost out. The subsistence farmer who used to be able to feed his family—not well, but at least he could provide a living—has now become the casual labourer living in an oilcloth tent by the side of the road. Such people are living in the most dire and desperate circumstances.

It is crucial that aid for trade does not come out of the rest of the aid budget, but is additional to it. We must also ensure that aid strategies are focused on the people who would otherwise be left out. No matter how brilliant our trading strategies or the attempts of domestic Governments to get the economic direction of their countries right, there will be serious losers. They and their suffering give much of trade and liberalisation a bad name and we have the opportunity to use trade to tackle that problem.

The developing countries were promised that Doha would be their round and their opportunity, but they have been disappointed. Hon. Members have mentioned the importance of the disillusionment that will follow. I find it hard to understand how a set of promises made by almost every major wealthy Government and institution has been allowed to fail. The G8 was supposedly on board, along with Blair and Brown here, as well as the UN, the IMF and the World Bank. It is hard to argue for the credibility of
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international agencies and institutions, or for the good intent of the developed countries of the world, when something quite as obvious and straightforward as creating a development round is not achieved.

Others have talked about the social turmoil that has occurred as a consequence of that failure, but the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) made one of the most telling points about the context in which it has taken place. We have been through a benign economic period, but one now sees markers that suggest that that might be coming to an end. One hopes that it is not, but if we cannot achieve a sharing of the pie when the pie is large and growing, it is hard to understand how we will achieve a sharing of the pie if we enter a period of recession and the pie begins to shrink.

John Bercow: The hon. Lady has been extremely generous in giving way. Leaving aside the issue of good faith, on which she has pertinently focused, is it not reasonable to ask how the international community expects the millennium development goals to be achieved if it is not prepared to do a decent and generous deal? Although increased aid budgets will make some difference, they will not begin to get near to reaching the goals by 2015. Unless we are prepared to do something on trade, the 100-year delay and more for some of the MDGs that was anticipated and recorded by the Committee in November 2003 will, I am afraid, become the reality.

Susan Kramer: The saddest part of the hon. Gentleman’s comments is that probably every leader in the western world would agree with them. The difference between what leaders say and what they are willing to use their political capital to deliver is probably the greatest problem that we face. We have seen people in this country become disillusioned with Governments, political parties and institutions, and we risk institutionalising that worldwide if we continue to allow that to happen.

I do not want to take any more time, but I hope that the Government will recognise that they need to expend genuine political capital on taking the issue forward. It has sometimes seemed to outsiders, whether fairly or not, that the Department of Trade and Industry takes responsibility for the discussions with our partners in Brussels on driving the issues forward, but the development issues, which are housed more within DFID, do not find full force and expression. If there is anyone whom the Government ought to have the ear of, it is surely Peter Mandelson. Now is the time to take advantage of every opportunity to take the lead, but also to understand that failure is not an option.

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