Brussels, September 13, 2002One year before the next World Trade Organisation’s 4th Ministerial will be held in Cancun, Mexico [1] and on the eve of new trade talks in Geneva [2], a broad range of European civil society groups, including Friends of the Earth Europe, Attac France, Oxfam, WEED, Berne Declaration, Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, ICDA, SOMO and AEFJN have launched a campaign calling on European governments to fundamentally re-orient the rules of the trade system to promote poverty reduction and sustainable development and to withdraw proposals for investment negotiations in the WTO.

A statement signed by 40 groups from across Europe calls specifically on the European governments and the European Commission to drop their proposals for investment negotiations within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and initiate instead of an investment agreement in the WTO a new system of multilateral rules on international companies, including enforceable rules on corporate accountability in the UN [3].

Groups state that ‘the introduction of investment negotiations in the WTO has been consistently opposed by thousands of groups in civil society and by the majority of developing countries. The aims of the proposed agreement on investment are essentially unchanged from the failed Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), abandoned in 1998. Recent experience with the NAFTA Chapter on Investment and other investment treaties has demonstrated the threat that this kind of agreement poses to the public interest. As shown by examples such as the misbehaviour and corporate abuse of Enron, there is no lack of power or rights for multinational companies. What is lacking are the enforceable rules that will ensure that all companies abide by internationally agreed environmental, social, labour and human rights standards and corporate accountability to the societies within which they operate.”

The UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights has recently urged states to ensure that all negotiations on investment and practices of corporations should follow internationally agreed environmental, social, labour and human rights standards and corporate accountability.

Groups state that the EU should not attempt to extend the WTO’s unfair and unsustainable rules from trade in goods to huge new areas of the global economy, such as investment – accounting for more economic activity than international trade.

The launch of the statement is the first activity that groups take forward in the run up of next year’s Ministerial in Cancun. Groups will gather for a Cancun strategy meeting from 23-24 September in Copenhagen to finalise campaign plans.

To see the full statement and a list of all signatories, see

Alexandra Wandel, FoEE, tel: +32-2 542 01 85 (Brussels)
Sonia Villa Hopkins, Oxfam Brussels, tel. +32-2 501 67 61 (Brussels)
Susan George, Attac, tel. +33-4-66 77 07 14 (Paris)
Sabina Voogd, SOMO, tel +31 20-6391291 (Amsterdam)
Marianne Hochuli, Berne Declaration, tel: +41/(0)1-277 70 11 (Zürich)
Penny Fowler, Oxfam GB, tel. +44 186 53 15321 (London)
Anjali Ramachandran, International Coalition for Development Action (ICDA), tel. +32 2 230 0430 (Brussels)
Peter Fuchs, WEED, tel. +49-(0)172 – 909 5 505 (Hamburg)
Luc Coppejans, Africa Faith and Justice Network – AEFJN, tel: 02 234.6810 (Brussels)
Martin Koehler, Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, tel: +3906 7826855 (Rome)

[1] From 10-14 September 2002 the next WTO Ministerial Conference will be held in Cancun, Mexico. Governments will make a final decision whether to expand the WTO’s trade agenda to investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation in Cancun.
[2] From 16-17 September talks will be held on investment negotiations in the WTO in Geneva.
[3] At the UN World Summit for Sustainable Development, governments have agreed to further develop intergovernmental agreements on corporate social responsibility and accountability.