Wednesday, May 24, 2006

U2's Bono Pledges Fight on Global Trade

AFTER a successful campaign to cancel the debts of some of the world's poorest countries, rocker-activist Bono today took on the world's powerbrokers over trade to Africa.

In Ghana on the last stop of a six nation African tour, Bono said today there was a new mood of optimism on the continent but farm subsidies and other trade barriers in large markets like the United States and Europe were blocking progress.

Bono said taking on the trade issue on behalf of Africa was not going to be easy.

"We're up against vested interests and big powerful lobby groups," he said after touring a market in Accra, the capital.

He said he and other trade activists had to get better at explaining to US and European farmers how their agricultural subsidies were hurting African producers.

Bono hoped his involvement would help give Africa a voice at the World Trade Organisation's Doha round,currently stalled over agricultural issues.

"The social movements will give us political muscle and that makes it do-able, but it is going to be a big fight," he said.

On his Africa tour, Bono visited textile and apparel factories in Lesotho and Tanzania where businesses had closed and jobs were lost because of the phasing out of the Multi-Fibre Agreement, which gave Asian producers greater access to developed markets as quotas under the agreement were scrapped.

In Mali, he visited a cotton-growing community to see the direct impact of US cotton subsidies, which African cotton producers say depress world prices and ruin their economies.

The U2 lead singer played a key role in marshalling popular support for debt forgiveness for some of the world's poorest countries and used his fame to influence world leaders in personal meetings.

In June last year the Group of Eight industrialised countries agreed to write off the debts of 18 countries, most of them in Africa, and double aid to the continent by 2010

At a meeting with Bono today, Ghana's President John Kufuor praised the rock star's work for Africa but told him that increased trade had to go hand in hand with aid to address the continent's underlying poverty.

"Our part of the world is in transition and it will take some muscle to keep up the changes," he told the rock star after a meeting.

"With the right policies and some encouragement, we will be able through partnerships to compete. For Ghana to get to such a position we will need some aid," he said.

Technorati Tags: , , .