CANCUN (MEXICO) – The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Cancun talks starting today look set to follow the collapse in Seattle, four years ago, as the same intergovernmental dynamics that threw the Seattle Ministerial into disarray fall into place, Friends of the Earth warned today.

A similar pattern seems to be emerging, despite predictable last minute attempts by the European Union (EU) and United States (US) to portray Cancun as a simple mid-term stocktaking exercise, to be followed by number-crunching negotiations to Geneva:

Hostility between the EU and developing countries.

The European Union is still trying to force the “new issues” of investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation, onto the WTO’s agenda, under the guise of development, despite persistent and explicit opposition from developing countries led by India. But the EU is resisting change to its own agricultural support system, creating likely tensions over the validity of initial negotiating documents on the opening day.

Hostility between the US and developing countries.

The US resolutely continues to resist demands from developing countries to deal with outstanding “implementation issues” and with the need for effective special and differential treatment for developing countries, as mandated at the last Doha Ministerial. Despite a recent “deal” on intellectual property rights (in which the US reluctantly conceded some rights to developing countries to produce generic drugs for sale in certain developing countries) designed to placate some of the largest countries such as India and Brazil, most key developing country concerns remain completely sidelined.

Hostility between the EU and US.

The US is currently aggressively insisting on challenging the rights of Europeans to reject genetically modified products, through a WTO dispute settlement procedure. If the WTO deems that the EU is breaking trade rules, it will allow the US to force Europe to approve more GM foods and crops – or face huge financial penalties. The United States is one of the few countries that did not ratify the United Nations Biosafety Protocol, the first treaty that officially seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms. The Protocol enters into force on September 11, 2003.

Civil society rejection of the WTO as a legitimate multilateral institution.

As in Seattle, tens of thousands of demonstrators – campesinos, fisherfolk, students, environmentalists and workers – are pouring into Cancun, from all parts of the world, united in their opposition to the WTO’s corporate-driven agenda and determined to forge new, equitable and sustainable economies.

Friends of the Earth International Trade Co-ordinator Ronnie Hall said:

“The WTO cannot continue to serve the interests of the world’s big business and hope that no-one will notice. Developing countries and civil society representatives are here in Cancun to call a halt to this unfair, unsustainable, and illegitimate process. International trade has to change, and that change needs to start here in Cancun.”


Alexandra Wandel + 52 -9981 204586
Alberto Villareal +52 -9981 204147
Meenakshi Raman + 52 – 9981 204557
Ronnie Hall +52-9981 204587