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Down to the wire

8 July 2005

Another day at Gleneagles and sleep is at a premium. Yesterday's timetable for negotiations junked after the news of the London attacks, and delegates have been going flat out to seal deals on trade, aid, debt and the environment. We now expect the prime minister to give a press conference around 2.15, at which he will issue a communique on Africa and Africa and a personal statement.

While the sherpers were burning the midnight oil, NGO leaders were cloistered over draft reactions to the communiques. I hear that a meeting of the Trade Justice Movement - the trade arm of Make Poverty History - was heated. Mainstream NGOs were pushing hard for a statement that would welcome the G8's language, expected to endorse greater self-determination for African nations to decide trade policy, and woolly commitments to cut subsidies.

Holding firm, radical NGOs refused to allow the G8 such credit. One senior insider told me that it would "make us look like idiots" if MPH were to slap the G8 on the back while the World Trade Organisation continues to kick the world's poor in the teeth. "It's like sending the missiles in to Baghdad while talking the about peaceful resolution," the source said. The WTO is holding a mini-ministerial in China on 12 and 13 July. The talks are also stalled (sometimes the global financial institutions put one in mind of a flotilla of learner drivers), and outcome is expected to push for the WTO ministerial in December to widen its free-trade net to include industry, manufacturing, finance and services. That means unfettering corporations still further from such irritating concerns as sustainability, responsibility and working conditions.

The UK delegation continues to stall. Tom Kelly, the prime minister's official spokesman, is keeping stumm. Blair, one imagines, is on his sixtieth fair-trade coffee, and the NGOs are pondering Valium. We await the west's latest set of dictats to the poor. If I were you, I'd ready the Enigma machine.

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