GENEVA / WASHINGTON – On the eve of critically important international trade negotiations, Friends of the Earth warned today that there could be serious repercussions if negotiations on ‘non-agricultural market access’ go ahead at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Trade ministers convene at the WTO in Geneva in Switzerland for a crucial General Council meeting (July 27 to 29) which might see them agree on a “framework” to go further with stalled international trade talks.

In a briefing released today, the environmental group states that there could be grave consequences for the global environment and for the poorest. Under ‘non-agricultural market access’ (‘NAMA’) negotiations all natural resources are effectively on the table for either partial or complete liberalization – potentially increasing already unsustainable rates of trade and consumption.

Other trade restrictions (known as non-tariff barriers) which include measures designed to protect the environment and promote social welfare are also at risk. Developing countries also risk losing their ability to use national policies to protect their environment and promote development.

In relation to the environment, the following have already been listed for further negotiation or consideration by the WTO: fish and fish products, gems and minerals, the certification of wood products, the tracing and labeling of fish and fish products; general import prohibitions for environmental purposes; and packaging, marketing and labeling requirements.

This month’s key WTO General Council meeting could set the WTO agenda on non-agricultural sectors and other key issues. Many of the small and poorest countries members of the WTO reportedly have serious objections concerning these negotiations because they think they would be the biggest losers rather than the beneficiaries of the so-called Doha ‘Development’ Agenda.

The WTO released its latest draft negotiating text on July 16. It included a ‘NAMA’ text which had already been heavily criticized by many developing countries (in particular by the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific group and Ministers of the ‘Group of 90′ at a meeting in Mauritius last week).

These countries said the ‘NAMA’ text contradicts the Doha principle of less than full reciprocity and would further deepen the de-industrialisation crisis and accelerate unemployment and poverty.

Friends of the Earth calls, among other, for a halt of the ‘NAMA’ negotiations and for a full, independent review of the potential environmental and developmental impacts of NAMA.


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