The EU's failure to show willing in the aftermath of the collapse of global trade talks at the WTO in Cancun last September is threatening the future of a development round, said Oxfam.
On the eve of two ministerial level meetings, Oxfam is warning that the EU's refusal to make concessions on agricultural reform could keep millions of people in poverty.
EU trade ministers will meet in Brussels on Tuesday 2 December to discuss what stance to take when the WTO reconvenes later this month in Geneva. Also on Tuesday, in Naples, EU foreign ministers will meet to discuss a regional free trade agreement with Arab states, called the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership.
"Lamy may claim that the EU is committed to multilateralism and to restarting the WTO round of talks, but without action on dumping and new issues these are hollow words. The fact that these Euro-Mediterranean negotiations are going on alongside the trade ministers' meeting shows that the EU is keeping its options open," said Phil Bloomer, Head of Oxfam's Make Trade Fair campaign.
"Europe has wasted precious time since Cancun. Their tardiness in returning to the multilateral negotiating table plus their continued intransigence over agricultural reform is a real threat to the development round of trade talks started in Doha two years ago."
Oxfam is concerned that the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership could deliver greater benefits to the EU than to Arab countries in the short-term, rather than offering the chance of true partnership and equal benefits, according to a new report, The Euro-Mediterranean Agreements: Partnership or Penury, released today.
"The economies of Arab countries are at a vulnerable stage of development. Twenty three percent of the population of the Middle East and North Africa live on less that $2 a day. These people's interests would not be served by a regional deal with Europe which failed to take into account the need for Arab countries to protect vulnerable markets and implement polices that tackle rural poverty," said Bloomer.
"If the EU are going to make regional and bilateral trade deals they should do so with the interests of poor people in mind. Regional deals should not be used to push beyond the multi-lateral agenda made at the WTO or to pursue self-interest at the expense of poor people's livelihoods."