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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2000 / 1_dec_dead


1 december 2000

deadlock in the wto, deadlock on climate change

foei proposes sustainable economies solution

A positive new alternative to calls for further trade liberalisation was today unveiled by Friends of the Earth International. The initiative comes exactly one year after the failed World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial in Seattle [1]. Today governments are still in disarray over global trade talks [2] and public concern over globalisation remains unabated. FoEI is challenging the myth that "there is no alternative" to further liberalisation.

FoEI's new briefing: "Towards Sustainable Economies: challenging neoliberal economic globalisation" is a unique and constructive contribution to the globalisation debate: the result of a two-year dialogue within the world's largest network of grassroots environmental and citizens groups (FoEI) [3]. Unlike official negotiations such as the WTO, Southern and Eastern groups have been able to participate and contribute on their own terms.

'Towards Sustainable Economies' argues that the neoliberal theory underlying so-called "free trade" is based on several false assumptions. Because of these assumptions, neoliberalism is unsustainable and promotes a 'win-lose' scenario rather than the 'win-win' one claimed by its supporters. Consequently, many millions are already suffering real negative impacts - hence the unprecedented demonstrations in Seattle, Washington and Prague over the last year [4] - and many more are set to suffer, not least from climate change [5].

However, FoEI believes that a different, democratic, equitable and sustainable future is within our grasp. ‘Towards Sustainable Economies' sets out constructive and viable principles and guidelines for developing fair and sustainable economies, calling for:
- new economic goals, including the equitable and sustainable use of limited resources and recognition of the importance of economic diversity;
- new devolved, transparent and participatory economic decision-making processes based on the principle of economic subsidiarity, giving communities control over the decisions that affect their livelihoods;
- stronger local and regional economies that increase local control of resources;
- investment in the 'real' productive economy;
- effective corporate control, including international corporate accountability and liability mechanisms and anti-trust legislation; and
- stronger multilateral governance of non-economic concerns including equity and sustainability - giving teeth to international agreements on climate change, biodiversity and worker protection.

Ronnie Hall, coordinator of FoEI's Trade, Environment and Sustainability Programme said:
"Governments don't seem to have learnt anything from Seattle. One year on they are still stuck on the same tired issue: how do they liberalise trade - with or without a new a round of talks . Infatuation with "free trade" and export led development is undermining local economies and communities across the country. But ‘Towards Sustainable Economies' shows that people are moving beyond this agenda, working together in the hope of improving the long-term welfare of people and their environment in both the North and the South. How long will it take governments to catch up?"

For a full copy of Towards Sustainable Economies: challenging neoliberal economic globalisation (or a 5-page summary) visit

Notes for Editors
[1] The collapse of the Seattle talks was announced just before midnight on 3 December 1999. One year before that, on 4 December 1998, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (the MAI, intended to promote investment liberalisation) was also abandoned.
[2] The positions of many governments remain unchanged a year after Seattle. In particular, the European Union is still pushing for a new and comprehensive trade round, even though many developing countries mantain that this will not be in their best interests. In addition, the Fourth Ministerial is scheduled for November/December 2001, but it appears that not one of the WTO's member governments is willing to host the event.
[3] FoEI groups from the following countries/regions are amongst those that have participated in this dialogue: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Benin, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, Wales and N Ireland, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Italy, Latvia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Malaysia, the Middle East, Paraguay, the Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, the United States and Uruguay.
[4] The 50,000-strong demonstration in Seattle was followed by a similar public response to joint meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April and September 2000.
[5] The fate of intergovernmental negotiations on climate change hangs in the balance, following the collapse of negotiations in the Hague on 25 November 2000, due to the fact that, as the UK's Sunday Observer commented, "The US has consistently treated these negotiations as just another round of trade talks". (Sunday Observer, 26 November 2000).

Mmore information:
Ronnie Hall 020 7490 2665



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