BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) / WASHINGTON DC (US) November 29, 2005 — Only two weeks before trade ministers from 148 nations meet in Hong Kong (China) in an attempt to agree how to further lower global barriers to trade, Friends of the Earth International [1] said that a failure of the faltering World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks would be a victory for the environment and for impoverished people worldwide.

Media Advisory
Friends of the Earth International
November 29, 2005

“The trade proposals on the table are outrageous and serve big business rather than impoverished people and the environment. No deal at the World Trade Organisation is definitely better than a bad deal. What we need now is a halt to trade liberalisation negotiations and an urgent review of the impacts of international trade rules on the impoverished and the environment,” said Ronnie Hall of Friends of the Earth International.
“If Europe and the US administration get their way, it will lead to unemployment, increased poverty and destruction of the environment as multinational corporations move in to profit from the natural resources of the developing world at the expense of poor farmers, workers, fisher folks and Indigenous Peoples,” she added.
Current WTO talks aim at freeing up trade in a range of sectors from agriculture to services to natural resources, boosting the enormous inequalities that exist in the current world trading system where the poorest get poorer and the richest get richer. [2]
“The poorest countries of the world have so far successfully resisted attempts by the European Union and the US administration to further open their agriculture markets as well as service and industrial sectors,” said David Waskow of Friends of the Earth US.
“It is critical that they stand their ground in Hong Kong as they in did in Seattle and Cancún,” he added.
Developing countries are being put under pressure to open up their markets to industrial goods and services and completely liberalize in a few priority areas which include forests and fisheries. This could lead to increase production and consumption of these resources, which are already severely depleted.
This in turn could endanger the livelihoods of up to 40 million people who rely completely on small-scale fishing for food and livelihoods and 350 million who rely almost entirely on forests for their livelihoods and income.
Agriculture tariffs and subsidies are the main obstacles to the deadlock in global trade talks. The EU, Japan and the United States do not practice the ‘free’ trade they preach, as they pay out more than 250 billion dollars a year to support their agriculture sectors.
Most of this money goes to large agri-businesses rather than to needy small farmers and promotes the dumping of surpluses in already impoverished countries. At the same time, the US and EU insist on demanding aggressive market opening by others, which would be equivalent to a death sentence for the hundreds of millions of peasants and family farmers in the developing world.
“More ‘free’ trade agreements means less freedom from poverty for people, but more freedom to plunder the planet and more profits for the world’s largest transnational corporations,” said Alberto Villarreal of Friends of the Earth International.
The world’s largest transnational corporations are the main driving force behind the current world trade system. About two-thirds of world trade is now accounted for by just 500 companies, and 40% of world trade occurs within these companies. Although the world’s top 200 companies account for one quarter of world economic activity, they employ less than 1 % of the global workforce.

In London (UK)
Ronnie Hall, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign +44 7967 017281 or email (December 11-19 In HONG-KONG : +852 6129 0419)
In Washington DC (US)
David Waskow, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign + 1 202 492 4660 or email (December 11-19 In HONG-KONG: +852 6127 8644)
In Brussels (Belgium)
Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe: +49 172 748 3953 or email (December 11-19 In HONG-KONG: +852 6125 7644)
In Montevideo (Uruguay)
Alberto Villarreal, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign +598-5228481 or email (December 11-19 In HONG-KONG: +852 6127 0200)
Friends of the Earth campaigners (from Australia, Germany, Haiti, Indonesia, Mauritius, Malaysia, Norway, the Philippines, Switzerland, Togo, United Kingdom, United States, and Uruguay) will be in Hong-Kong to tell how current and proposed trade rules favour transnational corporations and the richest nations at the expense of the environment and poor farmers, workers, fisher folks and Indigenous Peoples worldwide.

[1] Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest grassroots environmental federation with 71 national member groups in 70 countries and 1.5 million individual members and supporters. Friends of the Earth International does not have a member group in Hong Kong. ‘Friends of the Earth Hong Kong’ is not a member of Friends of the Earth International.
[2] According to the 2003 United Nation Development Program book ‘Making global trade work for people’ (page 33), “liberalizing trade does not automatically ensure human development, and increasing trade does not always have a positive impact on human development. The expansion of trade guarantees neither immediate economic growth nor long-term economic or human development.” The book is online at