Geneva (Switzerland)/ Brussels (Belgium), 26 May 2005 — The future Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Pascal Lamy, has been asked to urgently review the impacts of international trade rules on the poor and the environment. The former EU Trade Commissioner will be appointed Director General later today at a General Council Meeting in Geneva at the WTO.
Friends of the Earth International
Lamy will lead the WTO as of 1 September, two months before the WTO’s next Ministerial conference in HongKong. Mr. Lamy has stated that the conclusion of the WTO’s Doha negotiations will be his “objective number one, number two and number three” This fits with Lamy’s track record, which has already been severely criticized by NGOs. He has aggressively promoted the interests of big business, often to the detriment of people and the environment, and in the face of outright opposition from many developing countries. (1)
Commenting on his appointment, Alexandra Wandel, trade programme co- ordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe said:
“As new Director General, Lamy must break with his tradition of serving primarily big business. In Seattle and Cancun he said that the WTO is a medieval organisation. If he really wants to transform the WTO, he must immediately initiate an environmental and social review of the global trade system. We need trade rules that work for people and the environment. “
Shortly after he starts in September, the WTO will also issue a critical ruling on the issue of whether countries have the right to restrict trade in genetically modified food and crops (GMOs). The ruling will be the result of a complaint filed at the WTO by the US , Argentina and Canada , challenging the European Union’s stance on GMOs. Last year more than 100,000 citizens from 90 countries and more than 544 organizations representing 48 million people sent a citizens‘ objection to the WTO saying the WTO should not undermine the sovereign right of any country to protect its citizens and the environment from GM foods and crops.
“Tens of thousands of individuals around the world have signed a petition to send a clear message to the WTO to take their hands off our food. The World Trade Organisation has no right to impose genetically modified crops and food on any country. All around the world, people have backed this call. This will be a test case for the WTO and Lamy in particular.”
A ruling in favour of the US and the biotech industry would force countries, consumers and farmers around the world to accept GM foods. This would have serious implications particularly in developing countries who do not want to accept GM foods or want to stop them until they have laws in place. This would allow companies such as Monsanto to move in and take control of the world’s food supply and threaten food security, wildlife and the environment as well as people’s health.(2)
For further information please contact:
Alexandra Wandel, trade programme co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe
Phone: + 49 172 748 39 53
(1) Lamy’s insistence on expanding the WTO’s agenda to include investment, competition and government procurement against the will of many developing countries and civil society, was a critical factor in the break down of the WTO talks in September 2003 in Cancun. Until recently, Lamy has also aggressively pursued the opening up of developing country markets in the field of essential public services such as water. So, for example, during preparations for the current round of GATS talks, which started in 2000, the water giant Suez , banking interest Barclays, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and numerous other large European multinationals came together under the umbrella of the European Services Forum (ESF), with far-reaching support from the Trade Commissioner. A high-level official from the Commission’s trade directorate told industry representatives, “The European Commission is […] going to rely heavily on the European Services Forum. […] We are going to rely on it just as heavily as on member state direct advice in trying to formulate our objectives.The ESF certainly played a crucial role in forming the EU’s list of demands for services liberalisation presented to other WTO member states” See Behind GATS 2000: Corporate Power at Work, TNI?Corporate Europe Observatory, http://www.tni.org/reports/wto/wto4.pdf
(2) Lamy’s track record on biotech is worrying, to say the least. At the Seattle WTO Ministerial Conference in 1999, Lamy tried to make a deal with the United States to set up a WTO working group for developing GM product rules. EU environment ministers furiously rejected Lamy’s deal, which ran counter to the previously agreed EU negotiating position. In the last few years, Lamy and other members of the European Commission have lifted the moratorium on GMOs under pressure from the US, the WTO and biotech companies. He did this despite the fact that according to opinion polls, 71% of Europeans refuse genetically modified food.