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You are here: Home / Media / Archive / 2004 / 0802

0802

friends of the earth international

wto deal endangers environment, development
e.u. and u.s. demanded high price for empty concessions

August 1, 2004 – Geneva (Switzerland)/Brussels (Belgium)/ Washington D.C. (US) – After an agreement was reached late Saturday in Geneva to rescue World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks, Friends of the Earth International said that the deal was the result of undemocratic procedures and intense pressure that rich countries -such as the US and the European Union- exerted on developing countries.

In a rush to secure a deal governments turned a blind eye to potential environmental and social implications. The deal establishes an agenda for further negotiations that could threaten people and the environment worldwide, according to Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest grassroots environmental network.

"Governments are trading away our environment at the WTO. The WTO has already been used in the past as a weapon against environmental protection and public health. With this deal, even more environmentally and socially sensitive sectors will be liberalised. Corporate lobby groups will be the big winners, the environment and the poor the big losers," said Alexandra Wandel of Friends of the Earth. [1]

In particular, the agreement on Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) threatens to harm the environment and developing country economies, according to Friends of the Earth International. The agreement proposes to include effectively all natural resources for either partial or complete liberalisation. [2]

Despite some ambiguous language in the NAMA agreement on the concerns of developing countries, developing countries could face the loss of their ability to use national policies to promote development. The NAMA agreement could further deepen the deindustrialisation crisis in these countries, thus accelerating unemployment and poverty and forcing countries to rely more heavily on unsustainable and harmful exports of natural resources.

The WTO agreement also puts undue pressure on developing countries to open up service sectors. Friends of the Earth believes these negotiations pose a threat to the ability of countries to regulate basic services in the pursuit of social and development goals. The WTO framework agreement ignores civil society calls to exempt essential services, such as education, water, health, and energy. [3]

The so-called concessions by the EU and US in the agricultural negotiations turn out to be empty promises, according to Friends of the Earth. The commitment to eliminate export subsidies credits is missing any substance as no end date is mentioned in the text. On domestic support for agriculture, language in the framework agreement clearly opens the door for the EU and US to maintain nearly their entire level of current subsidies and to use these to continue the dumping of agricultural goods in developing country markets. At the same time, developing countries could be forced to give up import protections used to achieve food sovereignty.

Friends of the Earth also criticized the extremely secretive and closed process used for negotiations in Geneva, including the exclusion of many country negotiators from key negotiating sessions and the complete barring of non-governmental organizations from the negotiating venue.

David Waskow of Friends of the Earth US said: "The WTO process is completely undemocratic, and this framework agreement is the result. If the WTO proceeds on the course just laid out, these negotiations will pose a serious threat to people and the environment around the world."

For more information contact

Friends of the Earth:
In Europe Alexandra Wandel, FoE Europe, alexandra.wandel@foeeurope.org , +49 172748 39 53
In the US David Waskow, FoE US, dwaskow@foe.org , +1 202 222 0716 or 202 265 1818.
In Asia Meena Raman, FoE Malaysia, tel : +604-8299511 meenaco@pd.jaring.my

notes to editors

[1] Based on already existing WTO agreements, a US-led coalition is using the WTO to undermine other countries' rights to restrict trade in genetically modified organisms. See http://www.bite-back.org

[2] All you need to know about NAMA: Why NAMA threatens development and environment, available at http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/NAMAenvironmentFINAL.pdf

[3] Stop the GATS! WTO's General Agreement on Trade and Services will undermine social and environmental sustainability, available at http://www.foei.org/publications/pdfs/stop_gats.pdf

 

 

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