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Downward bound

16 December 2005

Towards the end of Saturday morning we should have the first impression of the extent of the damage to the WTO. The Doha Round, already listing after Seattle and Cancun, is in danger of suffering a terminal breech if negotiations in Hong Kong thus far are anything to go by.

Around noon, we expect the revised draft text for Hong Kong. The augurs for a deal – on which George Dubya has “staked his legacy” – are not good.

Peter Mandelson said today the negotiations were “going backwards”. On behalf of African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, Mauritius said there would be no deal unless banana, cotton and sugar exporters retained their preferential access to lucrative markets. The members of the bloc, he said, refused to be placed once again “between the hammer and the anvil”. Honduras, Benin and Venezuela have all threatened to walk out of the talks, the latter over services liberalisation, where a weak consensus has been shattered.

Friday’s one stirring moment came when developing countries formally congealed into their biggest coalition ever – pretty much all of them. Led by the sparkling Kamal Nath of India and Brazil’s Celso Amorim, the G110 (comprising, naturally, 120 countries) has vowed to force the rich nations to match their commitments on development without making further concessions.

“In the plenary hall, the big countries are talking about a development round, a round for free for the [least-developed countries]” said Nath, whose grandstanding is making him something of a name. “Once they get in [sacrosanct arm-twisting bodega] the Green Room, it becomes a round for free for themselves.” 

With protesters planning a last hurrah over the weekend, frantic buck-passing for an imminent collapse is under way. But the ministerial has already run aground.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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