'WTO is short-changing developing countries'

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has accused the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of failing to stabilise the global economy and questioned the organisation's significance as a trade forum.

Numsa, Cosatu's third largest affiliate with close to 220000 members mainly in the metal, engineering and auto manufacturing industries, said it believed that the WTO's role in concluding a trade agreement "was tipped into triviality".

Numsa national spokesman Mzwakhe Hlangani was reacting to last Tuesday's collapse of the WTO trade talks in Geneva.

He said the collapse, which happened after the US clashed with India and China and they were unable to compromise on agriculture subsidies and products, threatened the stability of the global economy and undermined the future competitiveness of developing countries.

"The world negotiations forum has failed time and again for the past seven years to reach agreement on tariff reductions and subsidy cuts on agricultural goods," Hlangani said.

"And Numsa is now extremely concerned that our country and industries should pin our hopes on the deteriorating organisation, which the US commanded to accept its continued increase in agricultural subsidies at the expense of developing countries while it interfered and sought to control the manufacturing industries of the same developing countries."

He said similarly, the failure to improve ease of access of European Union and US markets to emerging and developing economies would result in major job losses.

Hlangani said the unfairness and imbalance of the trade talks would leave industries no alternative but to outsource some operations and new model designs to developed economies because of lack of conformity to tariff cuts.