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Rich nations fueling poverty: Annan
September 11, 2003 05:37 IST
Last Updated: September 11, 2003 13:56 IST
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday accused the world's richest countries of fueling poverty through unfair trade policies.
"The damage is profound and the victims can be counted in the billions," he said in a speech read out by an aide after being forced to pull out to attend a Security Council meeting in Geneva.
"We are told that trade can provide a ladder to a better life and deliver us from poverty and despair, and we are led to hope that the current round of trade negotiations will deliver on this promise," he told ministers gathered for the World Trade Organisation meet in Cancun, Mexico.
"Sadly, the reality of the international trading system today doesn't match the rhetoric. Instead of open markets, there are too many barriers that stunt, stifle and stop it (free trade). Instead of fair competition, there are subsidies by rich countries that tilt the playing field against the poor," he said.
Annan called on rich nations to be fair and honest in the talks.
Ahead of the Cancun meeting, WTO solved a major problem, when it agreed at Geneva a system allowing poor countries to import cheap copies of generic drugs to treat diseases like AIDS and malaria.
Annan said it was now important to ensure that the system works in practice. "You have an awesome responsibility and a great opportunity," he added.