HONG KONG (CHINA), December 13, 2005 – On the day trade ministers from 149 nations meet in Hong Kong in an attempt to agree how to further lower global barriers to trade, Friends of the Earth International warned that World Trade Organization (WTO) proposals to fully eliminate tariffs in many sectors could have extremely serious consequences for millions of people dependent upon forests, fisheries and other natural resources.

Friends of the Earth International

Furthermore, preliminary Friends of the Earth analysis shows that full fisheries liberalization is opposed, or ‘not supported,’ by so many key countries that it cannot remain in the negotiations. [2]
Despite the fact that current trade talks were started to supposedly help the poorest countries ‘develop’, these nations are being put under heavy pressure to open up their markets in a vast range of goods and services.
A few key areas, including forests, fisheries and minerals have been proposed for complete liberalization, even though they are already severely depleted. Local people and Indigenous Peoples risk losing access to their traditional resources, food and medicines as they are set aside for export.
“Liberalizing fisheries could endanger the livelihoods of up to 40 million people who rely completely on small-scale fishing for food and livelihoods,” said Ronnie Hall of Friends of the Earth International.
“If Canada, New Zealand and Norway get their way and include fisheries in the talks, multinational corporations would 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.
“What we need now is a halt to trade liberalization 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.

For more information contact in Hong Kong:
Ronnie Hall, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign (December 11-19) +852 6129 0419 or ronnieh@foe.co.uk
David Waskow, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign (Dec. 11-19) +852 6127 8644 or dwaskow@foe.org
Alberto Villarreal, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign +852 6127 0200 (December 11-19) or comercioredes@gmail.com
Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe: +852 6125 7644 (December 11-19) or email alexandra.wandel@foeeurope.org

[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] Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, Singapore, Thailand have proposed the complete liberalization of fish and fish products (TN/MA/W/63 18 October 2005). Canada and the US have suggested that such sectoral initiatives would probably require countries responsible for 80-90% of world trade in a given sector (TN/MA/W/55) to participate in a negotiation. However Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have explicitly rejected a fisheries sectoral (TN/MA/W/6/Add.3); and in recent weeks the European Union has also amended its position, online here: http://europa.eu.int/comm/trade/issues/newround/hk/environment_en.htm