Thousands expected as Methodists join mass lobby of Parliament ahead of world trade talks

MAKE POVERTY HISTORY and Trade Justice Movement campaigners willbe staging a mass lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 2 November2005.

Thousands of people are expected to come to London to lobby theirMPs as part of the MAKE POVERTY HISTORY campaign. Many Methodistshave been involved in the trade justice campaign since itsbeginning and attended the campaign's first mass lobby in 2002.This lobby was the largest of its kind and was a turning point ingaining political and media attention. This year's lobby will buildon the impact of previous mass demonstrations, including the225,000-strong G8 rally in Edinburgh in July, and will be callingfor trade justice, not free trade.

President of Conference, Revd Tom Stuckey, who was at the Edinburghrally and will be attending the mass lobby, said: 'Thousands ofpeople marched in Edinburgh to demand trade justice, debtcancellation and more and better aid. There is now a commonunderstanding that we can all play a part in ending poverty, bypressing our leaders to change harmful policies. The commitments onaid and debt made at the G8 summit will achieve little, unlessthere is also major movement on trade policy. This lobby providesan opportunity to step up our campaigning and to get more peopleinvolved.'

Kirsty Smith, director of the Methodist Relief and Development Fundsaid: 'The timing of this lobby is crucial, as the World TradeOrganisation (WTO) meets just six weeks later. Pressure isincreasing on the UK Government to take a lead at the WTO meetingin rewriting world trade rules to benefit poor countries and theenvironment. Our government needs to stop pushing poor countries toopen their economies through the WTO and European Union policiesand to respect poor countries' right to choose their own tradepolicies. We cannot make poverty history unless this happens and Ihope that many MRDF supporters will join the mass lobby on 2November, even if they have never lobbied their MP before.'

A move towards trade justice would make a real difference for thoseliving in countries like Mali, one of the poorest nations in theworld. A third of the population is dependent on cotton production,including cotton farmer Sedou Sangare. The world price of cottonhas more than halved in the last 10 years, suppressed by governmentsubsidies handed out to cotton farmers in rich countries. WestAfrican countries produce cotton very efficiently, at only a thirdof the cost of growing it in the USA, yet American cotton is sohighly subsidised that it can be exported at below cost price,undercutting poor African, Brazilian and Indian farmers. This year,Sedou is struggling to make enough from cotton to feed his family:'The problem is that cotton could [only] reach 210 francs per kglast year. This year I owe 35,000 francs for fertiliser andpesticides and the price of cotton is fixed at 160 francs per kg.If the price of fertiliser goes up, we will certainly be working ata loss.'

The UK lobby will follow Prime Minister's Question Time and takesplace alongside lobbies being held across Europe and around theworld. Westminster Central Hall will be hosting an ecumenicalservice at 4.30pm on the day of the lobby.

Half a million people in the UK have already cast a vote for TradeJustice in a special ballot, calling on the Government to supportfairer trade rules, including many who have done so through theMethodist Recorder.

Campaigners should register at www.tjm.org.uk to receive moreinformation and to contact their MPs in advance of the lobby.Fliers, posters and action packs are also available from MRDF, 25Marylebone Road, London NW1 5JR or by calling 020 7467 5132.