November 14, 2001 – As governments walked away from trade liberalization talks in Doha, Qatar, Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) supported and welcomed the role of developing countries in standing firm against the launch of a comprehensive new trade round as proposed by the EU, US and other wealthy countries. A decision on future negotiations on investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation was postponed until the next Ministerial after strong opposition by many developing countries.

Under intense pressure by the EU and the US a “mini” trade round was agreed to include new negotiations on industrial tariffs and the environment. At the 5th Ministerial in 2003 it may be expanded to include negotiations on investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation. In addition, negotiations on liberalisation of agriculture and services will be accelerated. Governments will be under strong pressure to further liberalise their economies, which in previous years has resulted in inequitable development and environmental damage.

Friends of the Earth assessed the new work programme of the WTO as a disaster for sustainable development, even though governments agreed to advance discussions on trade and environment.

On trade and environment, the agreed text is ambiguous, narrow and could pose a threat to environmental regulations. Governments failed to integrate sustainable development into all WTO agreements. As governments will prepare for the World Summit for Sustainable Development to be held in Johannesburg in September 2002, FOEI reiterated its call on governments to ensure that negotiations will not be used to further undermine environmental regulations at the national and international level. Governments must clarify that treaties such as the Biosafety Protocol and Kyoto Protocol will take precedence over trade rules.

While FOEI welcomed the agreement to phase out agriculture export subsidies as a first good step, governments still have a long way to go to develop a system of sustainable agricultural commerce.

On services, negotiations on liberalisation of environmentally sensitive services sectors such as water, energy, waste, transport, and tourism will be accelerated that could pose a risk to the environment and damage local communities.

Scheduled talks will also increasingly threaten biological diversity. Liberalisation of trade in non-agricultural products may lead to increased natural resource extraction, the destruction of ancient forests and threats to conservation measures. The TRIPS agreement will continue to permit the patenting of life forms and the theft of biological and genetic resources, especially from the South.

On the environmental aspects of the declaration, Bertram Zagema from Friends of the Earth Netherlands said: “The environment text may look like a big step for the negotiators, but it is a small step for humankind. Governments have pushed for trade liberalisation measures that pose a risk to the future of our planet. This happened in an untransparent process in which developing countries were put under heavy pressure. In Doha much more has been lost than gained.”

Commenting of the outcome of the Doha Ministerial, Alexandra Wandel of FOEI said: “Governments came here with a pro-liberalisation agenda that is no longer popular. They have failed again to achieve the joined up global thinking that the world so desperately needs. There must be a complete overhaul of the trading system to make it sustainable, fair and democratic.“

Contact details:
Alexandra Wandel – +974 539 2747
Bertram Zagema – +31 62 959 3877