WASHINGTON (September 10, 2003) -– Poverty reduction must be a "key goal" of World Trade Organization negotiations beginning today in Cancun, Mexico, according to the Chairman of the U.S. bishops' International Policy Committee.
"The moral challenge is to ensure that whatever agreements are made they will benefit the entire human family, particularly the poor of the world," said Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, of Pensacola-Tallahassee.
Trade ministers of the 146 member nations of the World Trade Organization begin four days of meetings today in Cancun. Among the topics for discussion are agricultural trade, including domestic farm supports, export aid, and food safety and security; access to medicines for poor countries; and trade in manufactured goods and services.
"Trade agreements should be structured so that they do not just raise economic indicators, but also respect the human dignity of all people affected and actually improve the lives of the poor," said Bishop Ricard. "The scandal of poverty stalks the lives of too many of our brothers and sisters. Therefore, a key goal of trade agreements should be poverty reduction."
Bishop Ricard called on the trade ministers to adhere to the commitments they made in 2001 at the beginning of this round of negotiations. At that meeting in Doha, Qatar, the WTO agreed to "continue to make positive efforts designed to ensure that developing countries, and especially the least-developed among them, secure a share in the growth of world trade commensurate with the needs of their economic development."
In particular, Bishop Ricard urged the ministers to continue their efforts on agricultural trade, calling it a "litmus test for the world's trade order."
"So many of the poor in the world are farmers or employed in the rural sector," said Bishop Ricard. "If done in a more just manner, changing and adjusting the rules governing agriculture could significantly benefit the poorer nations and have a great impact on reducing poverty."
Likewise, he expressed hope that agreements on access to medicines would "truly benefit the people of poorer nations who are ravaged by HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and other treatable diseases."
"We pray that this opportunity will be seized and that progress can be made to enhance the lives and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable in our increasingly globalized world," said Bishop Ricard.