Statement on the revised draft WTO 4th Ministerial Conference Declaration
October 30, 2001 – Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) is an international federation of 68 independent national organizations from both North and South working on issues relating to environmental management, natural resources conservation, and social justice and equity. Its member groups campaign internationally, nationally and locally on the most urgent environmental and social issues of today.
The WTO draft Ministerial Conference documents can all be found at www.foei.org
FOEI believes that the present trading system promotes the free movement of goods, services and capital as a goal in itself, rather than ensuring that international trade promotes economically equitable and ecologically sustainable development. As a result, current trade rules as administered by the WTO encourage unsustainable resource use and an inequitable distribution of resources, favoring the economic interests of developed countries and their corporations in particular; and can conflict directly with local, national and international environmental laws. Furthermore, the current level of implementation of the various WTO agreements has proven in large part to be detrimental to the interests of developing and least-developed countries and their poor.
Clear bias towards the north’s trade agenda
The revised draft text of the Declaration maintains and even increases the bias in favor of Northern developed country trade interests, especially with respect to the conduct of negotiations for a new comprehensive round for the upcoming Ministerial.
All the elements of the current draft, drawn up by Stuart Harbinson (of Hong Kong), Chair of the WTO’s General Council, are consistent with previous Northern country statements regarding a new and comprehensive round of trade negotiations. These preferences have been consistently opposed by many developing countries (such as India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Tanzania) as well as civil society groups.
It incorporates the ‘new issues’ as negotiating areas to be included in the post-4th WTO Ministerial Conference WTO Work Program. Tellingly, it removes other options presented in the first draft (which would have involved relegating the new issues to ‘study groups’). The ‘new issues’ include investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation, market access for non-agricultural products, amendments to the Dispute Settlement Understanding and improving disciplines for subsidies and anti-dumping.
The draft language on ‘new issues’ uses sophisticated language effectively to initiate negotiations on investment, competition,
transparency in government procurement and trade facilitation, the most hotly contested new issues.
The document also aims to start a new round by proposing that:
A. a common timeframe for all the separate negotiations must be set;
B. negotiations in all areas comprise a “single undertaking,” albeit with an “early harvests”
C. the overall conduct of the negotiations is under the supervision of a Trade Negotiations
Committee as was done during the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations.
Weak on developing and least developed country concerns
In stark contrast, the revised draft text’s language with respect to concerns and proposals raised by developing and least-developed countries remains unclear, ambiguous and non-committal.
Language referring to trade, debt and finance; trade and the transfer of technology; technical cooperation and capacity building; least-developed countries; and small economies does not involve the conduct of negotiations leading to binding commitments from WTO Members in these areas.
Instead the revised draft declaration merely requires the WTO to “examine” or study these issues and then make recommendations to the General Council. The draft also fails to address positively and effectively concerns raised by developing and least developed countries in relation to the implementation of the Uruguay Round and special and differential treatment. In fact, by packaging implementation issues together with the new issues, developing countries will have to pay twice for the supposed benefits of the Uruguay Round.
The additional ‘draft Decision on Implementation-Related Issues and Concerns’ is also vague and non-committal vis-à-vis developing and least developed country interests. It makes no reference to the conduct of negotiations or other means of effectively and substantively (in terms of binding commitments) addressing the implementation issues raised again and again by developing and least-developed countries. Instead, it focuses on minor technical interpretations of various WTO agreements.
Differences over agriculture could stall Doha ministerial
The language on agriculture includes agriculture as part of a new round or ‘single undertaking’; does not explicitly commit developed countries to immediately eliminate agricultural export support measures and the dumping of surplus agricultural production (a key concern for many developing and Cairns group countries); and fails to make any reference to the ‘development box’ proposed by a number of developing countries.
The current text is vague in the extreme, making passing references to the ‘reduction of’ or ‘phasing out of’ export subsidies, without specifying any commitments or timelines. It does not mention tariff peaks, tariff escalation or dumping at all and completely fails to recognise calls for a ‘development box’ as made by Cuba, Dominican Republic, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Peru, Honduras and Kenya.
Furthermore, the text subtly promotes the new round agenda by seeking to link the timetable of the agriculture negotiations to the timetable of other trade negotiations.
The revised draft text does nothing to address the fact that the implementation of the current agriculture trade liberalization agenda has already caused much damage to poor local farming communities worldwide, especially in developing and least developed countries, and has increased control by Northern agro-industrial corporations over global food and agriculture trade and production.
Overall, the revised draft text focuses on developing an agenda that will pass muster with the developing countries yet not commit the EU, Japan and other industrialised countries to specific reductions in domestic or export support. However, it is so biased towards a Northern agenda that it is unlikely to succeed in this: rather, it is likely to infuriate developing countries. It seems that this approach to agriculture is likely to continue indefinitely in the WTO, lending support to calls to remove food and agriculture from the WTO and deal with it through a binding UN treaty on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.
Only a passing reference to services
Despite rapidly developing civil society concern about the eventual social and environmental impacts of WTO negotiations to liberalise services, GATS only gets a passing reference in this draft declaration.
The language in the draft text does not recognize or address the call of developing countries and civil society for the conduct of a full assessment of trade in services and its impacts. Neither does the draft text explicitly recognize the right to regulate trade in services with respect to national policy objectives relating to the public welfare and the environment.
Nothing specific on the environment
Even though the draft text’s preamble mentions “sustainable development” and “protection of the environment” as among the WTO’s objectives, there is nothing new in this text. It merely recommends the Committee on Trade and the Environment to continue addressing the WTO’s existing environmental agenda, including on multilateral environmental agreements and labelling.
The concerns voiced by civil society over recent years are simply ignored.
To really address “sustainable development” and “environment protection” would mean addressing the negative impacts of trade liberalization on the environment and natural resources use and management by local communities and the urban and rural poor. Trade liberalization alone, absent measures that promote equitable wealth redistribution from rich to poor through means that are democratic, inclusive, and economically empowering, will not bring about development that is economically equitable and ecologically sustainable. It will only bring about further environment and natural resource degradation, and will lead to further human conflicts over scarce natural resources both within and among countries.
Various other portions of the draft text, such as those relating to TRIPS (paras. 17 to 19), also demonstrate a failure to appreciate the links between environment and development. Of key importance is the draft text’s statement instructs the TRIPs Council to examine, inter alia, ‘relevant new developments” which leaves the door open for the introduction of biotechnology products as commodities subject to the WTO TRIPS regime, notwithstanding widespread concern from civil society and some governments regarding such products.
The WTO Committee on Trade and Environment, under the revised draft text, will continue to be an ineffective body in terms of pushing forward the trade-environment-development triad linkage because the draft text merely reiterates and renews the CTE’s current ineffective mandate to study and make recommendations regarding such linkage.
In line with calls of many developing countries for a comprehensive assessment and review of the impacts and benefits of the current state of implementation or non-implementation of the various Uruguay Round agreements, it is necessary that environmental considerations – closely linked to development considerations of developing and least developed countries – be integrated in such an assessment, and that the precautionary principle should be considered as one of the fundamental
bases for trade regulation.
Furthermore, regulatory measures of developing and least developed Members in pursuit of national health, safety and environmental policy objectives must be accorded greater flexibility in implementation of special and differential treatment. Focus must also be provided in terms of looking at the trade possibilities for developing and least developed Members vis-à-vis environmental goods and services.
The text fails to recognise imbalances, negative impacts and civil society concerns. The revised draft text also fails to take into account the institutional flaws within the WTO that have resulted in the greater disadvantage of developing and least-developed countries.
Notwithstanding the issues and concerns raised by civil society and many developing and least-developed countries to the contrary, the draft text uncritically assumes that the benefits of trade liberalization under the Uruguay Round agreements have been realized and spread widely and equitably among all countries, and that such trade liberalization has not had any adverse or negative impacts on the poor, their communities, the environment, and on the ability of many developing and least-developed countries to provide for their peoples.
The draft text completely fails to mention the call of civil society and many developing and least-developed countries for the conduct of a full assessment of the impacts of the current pace and direction of trade liberalization under the Uruguay Round agreements. It simply equates trade liberalization, in essence, with development, without making any concrete proposals that would ensure that such development is ecologically sustainable and economically equitable.
In view of the above, FOEI calls on WTO Members meeting for the 4th Ministerial to:
- State that there is a need to ensure that the pace and direction of economic activity must be balanced with the need to ensure that the benefits that may be derived from such economic activity are shared equitably, and that such economic activity must take into account ecological sustainability. Such ecological sustainability cannot be separated from any consideration of economic equity or enjoyment of the benefits.
- Call for the conduct of socio-economic and environmental assessments of the impact of the implementation of trade liberalization under the Uruguay Round agreements on local communities and the poor, especially in developing and least developed countries (including those relating to the built-in agenda such as agriculture and trade in services). Suc assessment should also adopt the precautionary principle as one of the fundamental principles of the trade regime.
- Make a clear statement that the implementation issues raised by developing and least-developed countries, as well as by a broad range of civil society organizations, need to be addressed. Sustainable agriculture, food security, and food sovereignty must be promoted and supported and the current agricultural trade liberalization agenda halted. The impact of trade in services must be fully assessed, and the right to regulate such trade must be fully recognized and respected. Also, mention must be made that obligations that promote and protect the public welfare and the environment under multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) must be fully recognized and implemented.
- Delete references to the new issues of investment, competition policy, transparency in government procurement, trade facilitation, WTO rules on subsidies and anti-dumping as proposed negotiating areas.
Rephrase the TRIPS-relevant paragraphs to provide for clear statements supporting: (a) banning of patents and IPRs for all lifeforms, including plant varieties, microorganisms and parts thereof; (b) protection of traditional and indigenous knowledge against biopiracy; (c) public access to medicines and genetic resources, including plant genetic resources; (d) the right to regulate in pursuit of national health, safety, or environmental protection policy objectives; and (e) protection for the right of farmers and indigenous communities to conserve, exchange and reproduce seeds.
For further information, please contact:
Vicente Paolo B. Yu III
WTO Program Officer
Friends of the Earth International
160A Route de Florissant
CH-1231 Conches, Geneva
Trade, Environment and Sustainability Programme
Friends of the Earth International
26-28 Underwood Street
London, N1 7JQ
Trade and Sustainability Coordinator
Friends of the Earth Europe
29, rue Blanche
Tel: (32) 2 542 01 85
Fax: (32) 2 537 55 96