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Textually transmitted uneasiness

18 December 2005

As those protesters still at liberty rally once more on the streets of Hong Kong, what looks likely to be the final text for the WTO's sixth ministerial has landed.

The NGOs here have gone berserk. Briefly, the deal includes the following howlers:

  • The much-trumpeted end date for agricultural subsidies will be 2013. But there, in reality, amounts to a minute cut and does effectively locks in the prospect of continued dumping of cheap goods overseas
  • Tariffs protecting manufactured goods will be slashed by a "Swiss formula". In short, poor countries will be required to make greater cuts to the protection they offer their industries than rich countries
  • To the wrath of Zambia - the chair of the least developed countries - the services passage includes a commitment to "plurilateral negotiations" and deadlines for liberalising trade in services. Anyone want to buy a school?
  • Even the development package, lauded as a leap forward in promoting the economic development of the Third World, has been qualified. In theory, it was supposed to allow the poorest countries to export everything they produce to lucrative Western markets, with no duties levied or quotas imposed. But now it seems the United States will be able to block textiles from Bangladesh.

Brazil and India, leaders of the G20 bloc of the largest developing countries, have just briefed the press. Both, it appears, have sold the poorest countries down the river for a few political points and a whiff of a boost for their largest exporters. Now the heads of delegations are gathering for the crunch huddle on whether to accept the final draft. This could, campaigning economists are frantically telling us, be endgame for the world's poorest people.

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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