Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Last week, the Zimbabwean dictatorship shut down the country's only independent daily newspaper, The Daily News (see previous entry for more details). The newspaper was in violation of the country's strict media regulation and registration laws.

The Bush administration rightly condemned the attempt to stiffle journalism that embarasses Zimbabwe's government. A truly free and independent press can expose wrongdoing and help hold authorities accountable, which is precisely what autocratic Mugabe and his cronies fear. That is why they've not only shut down The Daily News but effectively barred the BBC and all foreign media from (overtly) reporting inside the country.

"We call on the government of Zimbabwe to permit the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday to resume publishing at once and to cease intimidation and harassment of the independent media," said Adam Ereli, deputy spokesman for the US State Department. "These actions are unwarranted infringements on press freedom and they are the latest incidents in a pattern of intimidation and violence directed against the local media,"

Today, Iraq's governing council is reportedly planning to expel journalists from the Arab networks al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, according to the BBC (which is not banned in Iraq... yet). A member of the governing council, handpicked by Washington, claimed "Inciting violence is what these channels proclaim. They show men in masks carrying guns and call them 'resistance'. They're not resistance, they're thugs and criminals," He also "told the BBC that clear guidelines for reporting would be set out." It remains to be seen what form those "guidelines" will take.

The networks have defended their reports by saying they are committed to giving both sides of the story.

Given their (proper) condemnation of Mugabe's closure of The Daily News, it will be interesting to see the Bush administration's reaction to the measures against al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya in the new Iraq governed by "freedom and liberty."

Last week, the Zimbabwean government shut down the country's only independent daily newspaper, The Daily News, a move roundly condemned by southern Africa's nascent independent press. Today, the dictatorship arrested the entire editorial staff of the newspaper for working illegally, according to the BBC, which is banned in the country.

A judge had previously ruled that police should allow the journalists to work, but the authorities ignored the judiciary, as they've so often done in the past. The newspaper's ownership group "had failed to meet the requirements of the law," according to the country's media and information commission, calling for respecting the law without the slightest hint of irony.

The shutting down of The Daily News is only the most recent episode in the rampaging mis-rule of its dictator Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. Although media harassment and eviction of white owners of large farms have gained greater attention in the American and British press, ordinary peasants and workers have suffered most from the regime's viciousness, incompetence and outright contempt for humanity. A recent documentary by Radio Netherlands, also banned in the country, detailed the horrors of Zimbabwe's so-called National Youth Service Training program.

Supposedly created to instill patriotism and provide job skills, the camps have turned into "re-education" centers where young people are trained to be militiamen loyal to Mugabe and where they are [o]ften drugged or intoxicated, noted the doucmentary. The camps are "brainwashing [young people] into Mugabe's party ideology so that these young people become like robots," observed the Catholic archbishop of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city and in the heart of opposition-dominated Matabeleland.

Earlier this year, the regime was accused of manipulating distribution of international food aid in Matabeleland to punish political opponents. While Mugabe's cronies are brainwashing people and trying to extinguish free thought from the country, nearly 4 million Zimbabweans need food aid to survive.

One victim of the brutality of the re-education camps testified, "They started assaulting me, accusing me of selling them out to the MDC [the main opposition party who Mugabe and his thugs accuse of being stooges of Britain]. They beat me. And then they hit me with an axe. They were aiming for the back of my skull, but I turned, so they hit my eye. I lost my eye, but I think it's God who did that for me. It's better to lose an eye than your life."

I used to think Robert Mugabe was merely a garden-variety dictator. Loud-mouthed, corrupt, occassionally harassing political opponents; unquestionably greedy, certainly power hungry and egomanical, bad but not evil. And perhaps he was. But he has clearly evolved into something much worse. His small group of fanatical, and well-armed supporters, truly believe that Mugabe is the country's Savior (capital S). In the eyes of his zealons, that Mugabe overthrew the racist Rhodesian regime gives him license to commit crimes against humanity that even Ian Smith would never have dreamed of. And the South African government's policy of pandering to Mugabe should make its president Thabo Mbeki ashamed to look himself in the mirror. While the South Africa leader's "constructive engagement" may have had merits in the short-term, it's clear that the policy has been a miserable failure in stopping the rampant state-sponsored violence in Zimbabwe. If things are getting worse, not better, then the policy clearly isn't working. How much more suffering do Zimbabweans have to endure before President Mbeki realizes this?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

During his state of the union address in January, some people lauded President Bush for his promise to spend $15 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS in Africa. At the time, I said they were nice words, but that I'd withhold plaudits until they money was actually spent and programs actually implemented. Experience has shown me that state of the union addresses (like state of state) are about grand rhetoric, with few of the always numerous proposals truly followed through upon with the full weight of the White House. This has been the case regardless of who's president. Presidents want to get the spotlight of feel-good press and hope that people will forget about it once the shine of the moment is off. The AIDS promise was always going to have trouble sticking in the public's memory because they were followed by the more dramatic (to us) part on Iraq. The non-governmental organization Africa Action issued its assessment of the president's promises on AIDS-HIV and how that's translated, or not, into reality. Since there's been little media follow-up on the issue, it's useful to know how this has played out, lest the president get undue credit for his words rather than his actions.

From Africa Action

Since his State of the Union address in January 2003, President Bush has
reaped great public relations benefits by parading himself as a
compassionate conservative, committed to helping the people of Africa
defeat AIDS. But the reality is very different.

When he traveled to the continent in July 2003, Bush repeatedly emphasized
how much his Administration was doing to fight the AIDS crisis. And on the
domestic front, the President has said that his Administration remains
committed to confronting AIDS in the U.S. But President Bush's track
record on AIDS policy reveals a litany of broken promises and betrayals.

The President has misrepresented the actions of his Administration. He has
misled the American public, and he has failed the people of Africa. Bush's
broken promises are costing thousands of African lives every day.

The following talking points include quotes from the President, promising
leadership in the war on AIDS. These are followed by facts about the
reality of his Administration's policies.

Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (2003)


"To meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency
Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international
efforts to help the people of Africa...I ask the Congress to commit $15
billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new
money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of
Africa and the Caribbean." (State of the Union address, January 28, 2003)

"Next week, I will go to Africa to meet with leaders of African countries
and with some of the heroic men and women who are caring for the sick and
are saving lives...They deserve our help, without delay. And they will
have our help." (White House news conference, July 7, 2003)


* The AIDS plan announced in the State of the Union address in January
2003 was not an emergency plan. President Bush requested NO new money for
this initiative for the entire year of 2003.

* President Bush promised $15 billion over 5 years, or $3 billion a year,
for his new AIDS initiative. But in his budget request for 2004, unveiled
the week following his promises, Bush asked for less than half a million
dollars ($450 million) for next year for this initiative.

* Instead of the $3 billion per year over 5 years that was promised, most
of the money for the AIDS plan will not even be requested until 2005 and
beyond. This is after Bush's term in office will have ended, so there is
no guarantee this will be requested at all. Even more importantly, this
deadly delay will cost millions of African lives.

* The focus of the new AIDS initiative is not really on Africa and the
Caribbean. The White House has clarified that the $15 billion will include
all U.S. funding for AIDS globally. In July 2003, President Bush said the
initiative he announced in January was to fight AIDS abroad , breaking his
own promise that it would be for Africa and the Caribbean. This means that
whatever amount of money is appropriated for AIDS, Africa will get far less
than promised.

* In July 2003, the White House specifically asked Congress to limit AIDS
funding for next year. President Bush intervened during the budget process
to urge Congress not to spend the $3 billion that was being considered at
that time. This was after Bush had returned from Africa, where he had seen
first-hand the devastation caused by AIDS and where he had repeatedly
promised U.S. support for African efforts to fight AIDS.

The Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria


"The devastation across the globe left by AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and
the sheer number of those infected and dying is almost beyond
comprehension...The United States is committed to working with other
nations to reduce suffering and to spare lives. And working together is the
key. Only through sustained and focused international cooperation can we
address problems so grave and suffering so great." (Rose Garden Ceremony,
with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and Nigerian President
Olusegun Obasanjo, May 11, 2001)


* In 2001, President Bush supported the creation of the Global Fund to
fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. But his Administration has
consistently undermined the effectiveness of this important vehicle by
refusing to pay the U.S. fair share, leaving it severely under-funded.

* The U.S. has contributed only an average of $200 million a year to the
Global Fund since it was created in 2001. An equitable contribution to the
Global Fund from the U.S., based on the U.S. share of the global economy,
would be $3.5 billion per year. In contrast, the U.S. is spending more
than $1 billion a week on the war and occupation in Iraq.

* President Bush said in January 2003 that the U.S. was committed to
leading the world in the fight against AIDS. But he continues to neglect
the best way to address the AIDS crisis -- the Global Fund to fight
HIV/AIDS. Bush has pledged only $200 million per year over the next 5
years to the Global Fund as part of his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief .

* U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, is chair
of the Board of Directors of the Global Fund. Yet the Global Fund is
running out of money because the U.S. is failing either to contribute its
share of resources or to act responsibly as Board chair and implement a
fundraising plan for this crucial vehicle.

* To coordinate his new AIDS initiative, President Bush is creating a new
U.S. government bureaucracy that will compete directly with the Global
Fund. This bilateral approach breaks Bush's earlier promise to support
multilateral efforts to fight AIDS. This new U.S. agency will take money
away from the Global Fund. It is also less efficient, with ten times as
much overhead , or administrative costs, as the Global Fund. It is to be
headed by a former Drug company executive, Randall Tobias, of Eli Lilly & Co.

* While President Bush's AIDS plan is unlikely to be up and running until
at least 2005, the Global Fund is already operational and it can save lives
NOW. U.S. contributions to the Global Fund will leverage billions of
dollars from other donors. By refusing to support the important work of
the Global Fund, President Bush is undermining international efforts to
defeat AIDS and betraying those on the frontlines fighting this pandemic in

HIV/AIDS Treatment


"Anti-retroviral drugs can extend life for many years. And the cost of
these drugs has dropped from $12,000 a year to under $300 a year -- which
places a tremendous possibility within our grasp." (State of the Union
address, January 28, 2003)

"We'll work quickly to get help to the people who need it most by
purchasing low-cost anti-retroviral medications and other drugs that are
needed to save lives." (White House Ceremony, announcing the appointment of
the new Global AIDS Coordinator, The Roosevelt Room, July 2, 2003)


* In 2001, the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO),
including the U.S., adopted the Doha Declaration, which declared that
patents on drugs should not be allowed to hinder poor countriesaccess to
essential medicines. But since this time, the U.S. has consistently
blocked efforts to relax patent rules and facilitate African
countries' access to anti-AIDS drugs and other essential medicines. The
agreement reached in Geneva in August 2003 still imposes extremely
complicated procedures designed to protect patent rights, which leave
enormous obstacles to overcome before affordable medicines are actually
made available in Africa.

* The Bush Administration's close ties to the pharmaceutical industry have
meant that U.S. policies continue to support the interests of the powerful
pharmaceutical lobby to keep their profits high. This betrays the efforts
of African countries to secure affordable access to essential HIV/AIDS
treatments for their people. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the
largest contributors to the Republican party.

* President Bush named a pharmaceutical executive, Randall Tobias, as the
Coordinator of the new AIDS initiative that was announced earlier this
year. Tobias has no experience in public health or international affairs
he represents the pharmaceutical industry, which has sought to deny
Africans access to essential drugs. One prominent example of such was the
lawsuit brought against Nelson Mandela by several major pharmaceutical
companies in the 1990s, which sought to prevent the South African
government gaining access to essential anti-AIDS treatment for its
people. This suit was only withdrawn in 2001 under international pressure.

* The choice of Randall Tobias by Bush reveals his allegiance to the
pharmaceutical companies and breaks the promise he made that the U.S. would
promote low-cost anti-AIDS drugs.

* In June 2001, the Administrator of USAID, Andrew Natsios, said that AIDS
treatments would not work in Africa because Africans don't know what
Western time is. He used this racist and ignorant logic to oppose the
provision of essential treatments to people living with HIV/AIDS in
Africa. Africa Action wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell
(Natsios' boss) to demand a retraction, and to call for
Natsios' dismissal. But the Bush Administration issued no retraction or

* The Bush Administration continues to stall on providing low-cost AIDS
treatments to African countries, claiming that inadequate infrastructure
means that funding for treatment must wait. But treatment programs
throughout Africa need money now. The solution to weak infrastructure is
urgent investments to improve capacity. These delays in extending
treatment access are costing thousands of African lives every day.

* The Bush Administration supports conservative measures that undermine a
comprehensive response to the AIDS crisis in Africa. These include
emphasizing abstinence-only measures, prioritizing prevention over
treatment, and opposing the use of condoms. This emphasis on
fundamentalist ideology over science and public health represents a
dangerous step backward in the fight against AIDS.

Domestic HIV/ AIDS Programs


"We have confronted, and will continue to confront, HIV/AIDS in our own
country." (State of the Union address, January 28, 2003)


* As the HIV/AIDS crisis in the U.S. continues to grow, the Bush
Administration is failing to show leadership to address this urgent
situation. For the past 3 years, the Bush Administration has essentially
flat-funded domestic HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

* The CDC has stated that there are more than 40,000 new HIV infections in
the U.S. each year, half of these under the age of 24. A 2003 study from
Emory University has said that failure to reduce HIV infections by 50% in
the next two years could cost this country more than $18
billion. President Bush's budget request for 2004 cut $4 million from
domestic HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

* The 2004 budget request flat-funded the Minority AIDS Initiative, which
provides essential funding to organizations addressing the HIV/AIDS crisis
in communities of color across the U.S. There is a growing demand for
funding for this initiative, but the Bush Administration continues to
ignore this reality. More than half of all new HIV infections in this
country are occurring among Black people.

* President Bush's budget request for 2004 proposed only a small ($5
million) increase in the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA)
program, although the demand for this program has grown dramatically, and
more funding is needed urgently. The CDC estimates that there are
currently 900,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. The total number
of people living with HIV domestically increased by 33% between 1996 and

* The 2004 budget request contained an inadequate increase (only $100
million) for the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAP), but this is far less
than what is needed. Already 13 of these programs around the country have
had to limit access to anti-retroviral treatments or close enrollment to
new clients altogether because of inadequate funding. Another 7 programs
have reported they are likely to have to undertake similar measures in the
next year.

* The Bush Administration remains committed to an abstinence only policy
when it comes to education about HIV/AIDS and STDs. Many AIDS advocacy and
AIDS service organizations have expressed grave concerns about an approach
that places political ideology over science and public health. Public
health experts emphasize that a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS
prevention must include education about condom use.

* The federal ban on funding for needle exchange programs denies thousands
of injecting drug users in the U.S. access to a lifesaving medical
intervention. Access to sterile needles can help prevent thousands of HIV
infections ever year. At present, injecting drug users account for more
than one-third of all new HIV infections in the U.S. Federal funding for
needle exchange programs is needed to expand these programs to control the
spread of HIV and save thousands of lives.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Note: I received a recent email from an acquiantance of mine. She served in a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea, West Africa, like me; though my service ended in 1997 and hers much more recently. Although we lived in different places, the same man was sous-préfet (local administration) of each of our villages. She asked me how my readjustment had gone. Below is my response (edited for context).

A few points of reference: Beindou is the tiny village I lived in. Kissidougou is the city I visited weekly, since it was about 7 miles from my village. Conakry is the capital of Guinea. NZerkeore, Dalaba, Kankan, Labe, Mamou, and Gueckedou are all medium/large cities in Guinea. A 'gros camion' is a huge truck used to transport goods and people from one open air market to another across the country; wares are shoved in the cab of the truck and the people sit on top of the wares... extremely dangerous, especially on bad roads.

* * *
My readjustment was somewhat atypical in some ways and probably normal in others. Two days before I was to leave Beindou, I stepped into a hole (long story but I WAS completely sober :-) and bruised my thigh quite badly. Normally, I might have gone to Conakry immediately, since it required some sort of attention. But the villagers and sous-prefet had organized a goodbye party for me on my last night, the day after I hurt myself. Since they'd gone to the trouble of setting up this party, I sucked it up my last day there. But because I was injured, I was not able to go around the village and say my goodbyes to everyone in the way I'd planned. The party was really cool, and quite touching, but since I could move only with great difficulty, I only stayed for the essential part and left when they started dancing. As a result, when I left, I felt as though I was leaving without a sense of closure, so to speak and I felt bad.

It bugged me so much, I had to go back. I saved for the next 18 months and got enough to buy a plane ticket back to visit. That year and a half was really tough. There was the usual readjustment stuff they talk about, which is bad enough. When they went on about reverse cultural shock in those seminars, I thought it was psychobabble baloney. I figured, I'm going back to the place I've always lived, so what's the big deal. Except I wasn't the same person as I'd always been. I found out the reverse culture shock was real. Then you add to that the sense of unfinished business and it was a rough time. And obviously no one really understood. I think my family tried as much as they could. They couldn't fully understand what I was going through but at least they realized there was more going on than they could really wrap their heads around. Because of this, they didn't try to diminish what I felt or act condescendingly. That made a big difference.

But even well-meaning friends didn't have a clue. To them, the Peace Corps was like visiting a great museum. A great experience and very educational, but when you get back, you go on with your life as though nothing major had happened. Something like the PC is a life-transforming experience for many of us who do it. One or two friends implied that I should just get over it and move on. I lost a bit of regard for them.

In the beginning, my readjustment was really hard. I remember once, shortly after I got back, I visited an old college professor of me. She was talking to her husband at the time, going on about the shape of their garden and how they were never going to win the village's garden competition or something like that. I remember being struck at how superficial it was. About how irrelevant were the things we obsess about so much. In the year or so after I got back, I was somewhat harsh like that in my assessment of people.

In time, as you might expect, I've become more accomodating. When I took off my rose-colored glasses, my memory reminded me of a few things. I remembered the times when Guineans would argue on forever about who played what position in a soccer game. Taxi drivers would spend 20 minutes arguing about which car should go first on the ferry that took maybe 10 minutes to cross the river. Many people (especially those imbued with liberal guilt) think such self-indulgence is unique to the decadent western world. When I stopped being so judgemental, I comprehended that everyone, rich or poor, argues about irrelevant, superficial crap, including me. For better or worse, it's part of humanity.

When I did finally go back, I did find the closure I was looking for. I said goodbye to everyone. I said what I had to say to my three best friends that I might never see again for the rest of my life. By the time I left, I was content. And things have been a lot smoother since then.

Of course, I still miss Beindou. I still remember about sitting in my doorway during a rainstorm watching little kids streak through the puddles and trying to hear BBC's Focus on Africa program through the rain pounding on my metal roof. I still reminisce about sitting on my porch, at night, chatting with my friends, with cooking fires, kerosene lamps and obscenely bright stars the only illumination. I still remember about playing Lido (which is similiar to the board game Sorry) with the local little kids on a hot afternoon. I'm still grateful to my next door neighbor who once lectured me about closing my windows when I spent the night in Kissidougou, even though theft was almost non-existent in my village. I still laugh that my house's fancy metal roof leaked but the grass-thatched roof of my friend Benjamin's family hut did not. I wonder what's become of the then-little tree in my backyard that is quite literally the fruit of orange seeds I spat out there one February afternoon. And sometimes, when I get pissed off at home or stressed at work, I think of myself sitting on the sous-prefet's porch playing some clapping game with his little boys or debating African (but not Guinean) politics with him or having his wives chastise me for being too thin (I was then a svelt 200 pounds); you can't do that and not end up relaxed. I remember being shook up on the first trip I ever took where we drove by a 'gros camion' on the Kissidougou-Kankan route that had just tipped over on the badly potholed dirt road. I remember the vibrancy of N'Zérékoré, the hot dustiness of Kankan, the green of Labé, the majestic beauty of Dalaba, the refreshingly cool weather of Mamou, the oppressive humidity of Conakry that made it hard to breathe, the disgusting dirtiness of Guéckédou, the homey familiarity of Kissidougou. Next Wednesday, I think, will be the 8th anniversary of my swearing in as a volunteer. And I still remember. Thanks for reminding me to remember.

The sensational collapse of World Trade Organization talks in Cancun, Mexico was a historic first step in trying to implement a fairer global trading system.

For the first time, developing countries formed a united bloc against the against the bullying of developed nations and allied with a few middle income countries like India and Brazil. By walking out, developing countries prevented the imposition of an agreement which would've done nothing to help alleviate poverty at home. Better no agreement, they contend, than a terrible agreement. By showing the power of their unity, they sent a message to the developed countries that their needs have to be taken into account too. In an organization run by consensus, such polarization was fatal to this round of talks.

The three main blocs of developed countries are the United States, Japan and the European Union. They all offer large subsidies to their farmers, which is at the crux of the issue. Developing countries can't afford these subsidies and thus can't compete. Negotiations "reaffirmed their commitment to moving towards the objective of reducing the farm subsidies of industrialized nations, without setting timetables or targets for doing so," noted The Inter Press Service. And that's the problem: developing countries don't trust such vague promises.

And can you really blame them? Europe and the United States lecture them piously on the importance of free trade, on the economic problems caused by government intervention in the economy (like subsidies) and on how they must slavishly adhere to every letter of International Monetary Fund fiats; these fiats in the name of economic liberalization (supposedly the cure for all ills) can even ruin domestic industries and put thousands of people out of work, as was the case for cashew nut workers in the southern African state of Mozambique. So developing nations are calling the bluff of the Americans and Europeans by asking, "If fundamentalist free trade is so great, why don't you try it to?" Developed countries aren't used to being told to practice what they preach.

It's been reported, for example, that the average European Union COW is subsidized to the tune of over $2 a day, the average American cow nearly $3 per day and the typical Japanese bovine receives fully $7 a day in subsidies. The BBC notes, "Economists estimate that the world's poor countries lose a total of $24 billion a year because of subsidies paid to farmers by rich nations."

Not surprisingly, everyone tried to pass the buck. But the real problem is that Europe, Japan and the US want free trade in theory, but don't want the sacrifices required for that to occur. They want exceptions for themselves, but not for anyone else. Not surprisingly, this fuels broad resentment of the whole concepts of economic liberalization, freer trade and globalization as a whole. When globalization becomes synonymous with "free trade" that's not really free (or fair), people in poorer countries begin to question the whole concept of globalization.

I think more freer trade and more transparency will help developing countries far more than increased aid. The West has been giving out development aid for decades and things haven't fundamentally changed in a lot of countries, especially African ones. Things haven't changed largely because what the West has been giving with one hand (aid), it's been taking away with the other (unfair trade rules). While we shouldn't slash development aid for now, fairer trade rules will benefit everyone. The economic rise of western countries was fueled by an exploding middle class. Increasing the size of the middle class in places like Ghana or Sri Lanka will fuel their economies too.

But one key thing is worth noting. Western countries became developed in the 19th and early 20th centuries using methods that would be TOTALLY unacceptable in 2003. Child labor, deplorable working conditions, no overtime or vacation time, no workers' compensation, no minimum wage, anti-trade union repression, high tariffs. The West industrialized by taking actions that would be roundly condemned today. Today's poorer countries don't have the same shortcuts available that western countries did. That's why they're finding development harder and slower.

The main developed countries aren't as committed to free trade as their rhetoric suggests. Japanese farmers love their huge subsidies. European farmers have an influence that is probably disproportional to their numbers. Washington would rather negotiate bilateral trade agreements on smaller scales so they can more easily bully individual countries into accepting American conditions.

The collapse of the talks was not good for anyone, least of all the developing countries. The status quo is clearly doing them no favors. Hopefully, the unity of developing countries will send a message to developed countries. "This is the first time we have experienced a situation where, by combining our technical expertise, we can sit as equals at the table," observed South Africa's trade minister. Hopefully from this collapse, a better deal will emerge the next time around.

One fear, however, was underlined in an essay in The Guardian (UK) by Adriano Campolina of Action Aid's international food rights' campaign.

He wrote, However, there is now a real danger that having failed to impose their wishes on developing countries at the WTO, rich countries will try to get their way by brokering deals on an individual or regional basis. As we have seen with NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement, involving Mexico, US and Canada), developing countries rarely fare well in these kinds of agreements. The elite usually manage to take the lion's share of any profits, while the poorest communities are left with nothing.

American and European rhetoric is right: freer trade will benefit developing countries, create wealth and help alleviate poverty. The question is: are the American and European leaderships willing to do what it takes to truly impelement freer trade rules? So far, the answer has been no.