CANCUN (MEXICO) – Trade and environment ministers from all around the world gathering today in Mexico at a key meeting ahead of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial in Cancun were warned not to trade away the environment.

Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest network of environmental grassroots organizations, warned in a briefing that the WTO is taking over the United Nations and putting at risk international environmental governance.

Governments are negotiating at the WTO on the relationship between global environmental agreements and WTO rules [1]. However, the WTO has no mandate to rule over international environmental governance in general and specifically not over the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs).

Ongoing WTO negotiations, requested by the European Union and Switzerland, should be transferred to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council, according to Friends of the Earth International.

Only the United Nations has the authority to review and decide on any potential and actual conflicts between environmental agreements and WTO trade rules. In addition, environmental governance should be strengthened by bolstering the compliance and dispute settlement mechanisms of global environmental agreements, the organisation said.

“Trade measures in Environmental Agreements are amongst the most effective instruments to ensure that key objectives of MEAs are met. As a consequence, MEAs must not be subordinated to the WTO trade rules and their autonomy and authority must be recognized. To do so, negotiations on the relationship between WTO rules and MEAs should be transferred to the Untied Nations immediately,” according to Miriam Behrens.


Alberto Villareal +52 9981 204585
Alexandra Wandel +52 9981 204586 (from sept 9)
Miriam Behrens +52 9981 204589 (from sept 10)


[1] There are approximately 200 multilateral environmental agreements in place today, a number of which contain provisions related to trade and trade rules. They include the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which regulates trade in genetically modified organisms and enters into force on September 11, 2003; the Basel Convention which controls trade or transportation of hazardous waste across international borders;the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. Negotiations on the relationshipo between MEAs and trade rules were launched in Doha 2001.