GENEVA (SWITZERLAND) – Last-ditch World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations are scheduled to take place in Geneva during the week of the 15th December, and appear to be – yet again – in deadlock.

But, argues Friends of the Earth International, no deal is still better than a bad deal when it comes to trying to revive negotiations that collapsed in Cancun (Mexico) in September [1].

Following the collapse of the trade talks, 15th December was slated by governments as the date for the final resolution of outstanding differences. Yet, following a series of closed-door meetings in Geneva, and despite a ‘period of reflection’ by the European Union, very little seems to have changed.

Indeed, at an informal Heads of Delegation meeting in Geneva last week it became clear that no new negotiating text is expected, as governments have so far refused to change their positions, especially on agriculture and investment liberalisation.

“This cannot be seen as just another missed deadline,” said Ronnie Hall of Friends of the Earth International “WTO negotiations have stalled again and again because they cannot deliver what people really need – healthy, thriving local economies everywhere and sustainable levels of natural resource use.”

“Now is the time for the EU and the US to realise that they must give up their corporate-driven market-opening agenda, exchanging it for a progressive approach to developing fair and sustainable economies that work for everyone,” she added. According to Friends of the Earth International, now is the time for governments around the world to realise that the current WTO does not and cannot deliver fair and sustainable economies. What is needed is a real and far-reaching shift in the way governments approach the management of our economies at the national, regional and international levels [2].

There is no need to abandon a system of multilateral trade rules. But there is a pressing need to look at the current set of WTO trade-liberalisating rules, which favour rich countries, rich companies and rich people, at the expense of poor countries, poor communities and the environment. First steps in this direction could be taken by governments meeting in Geneva, who should agree to:

  • Accept an independent and comprehensive review of the last Uruguay Round of trade negotiations (and initiate discussion on this in the upcoming UNCTAD XI Ministerial in June 2004). [3]
  • Stop the expansion of the current WTO by rejecting any new issues outright.[4]
  • Move negotiations concerning the potential conflict between trade rules and multilateral environmental agreements to the less biased United Nations. [5]
  • Replace export-oriented agricultural policies with a focus on food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture. [6]


Ronnie Hall, Friends of the Earth International :
+44 1243 602756 or +44 7967 017281 (English-speaking)

Alberto Villareal, Friends of the Earth International in Uruguay:
+598 522 8481 (Spanish-speaking)


[1] See detailed press releases predicting (10th September 2003) and commenting (15th September 2003) on this outcome at

[2] For full details of FOEI’s position on developing fair and sustainable economies please see ‘Towards Sustainable Economies: challenging neoliberal economic globalisation’

[3] The UN’s Conference on Trade and Development will be considering trade and globalisation issues from a development perspective at its 4-yearly gathering, UNCTAD XI, due to be held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 13-18 June 2004, see for further information.

[4] See FOEI’s publication “No new rights for big business at the WTO” for a detailed position statement on investment liberalisation, at

[6] See FOEI’s publication “Trade and People’s Food Sovereignty