On the day of crucial global trade talks in Geneva, Switzerland, Friends of the Earth International, a global network of environmental groups, applauded Brazil and other developing countries’ apparent success in resisting European and US pressure to open their markets.
Brazil and the G20 countries have argued that aspects of the deal on the table could lead to unemployment and increased poverty as well as increased use of already seriously depleted natural resources.
The ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) Ministerial Declaration on the WTO Doha Work Program adopted on 11 July 2004 in Mauritius, states that they "are concerned that the proposals contained in the Derbez text and its annex on NAMA [non-agricultural market access negotiating documents] . would further deepen the crisis of de-industrialization and accentuate the unemployment and poverty crisis in our countries."
On Wednesday November 9 several key member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) said they have reached an impasse and had run out of time to reach agreement on a draft trade deal supposed to be finalized at a WTO December 13-18 conference in Hong-Kong.
A ‘mini-Ministerial’ meeting was convened and chaired by Pascal Lamy, Director General of the WTO, in Geneva on November 8 and 9. 28 countries considered to be key to the negotiations participated. Failing to reach agreement on negotiations they agreed that it was necessary to ‘scale back’ expectations for Hong Kong.
Some ministers proposed a second Ministerial be held in March 2006. Countries present included the EU, US, India, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Zambia, New Zealand, Australia, Korea, South Africa, Malaysia, Lesotho, Benin, Chad, Thailand, Argentina, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan and China.
Even though the current trade negotiations were supposed to focus on development, the European Union (EU) and the US have been aggressively using them to insist that poorer countries open their markets in a wide range of service, industrial and raw material sectors, including forests and fisheries. Meanwhile, the EU and the US are only willing, in return, to offer superficial concessions in agriculture.
"The trade proposals on the table are seriously bad news for poor people and the environment", said Ronnie Hall of Friends of the Earth International. "Developing countries are right to stand their ground. No deal is definitely better than a bad deal."
Brazil’s Foreign Minister among others said on Wednesday that the EU is coming up with nothing new on agriculture. But negotiations on industrial products and in raw material sectors could see developing countries being forced open their markets extensively.
They are being put under pressure to partially liberalize almost all sectors and completely liberalize in a few priority areas which include forests and fisheries.
This could lead to increase production and consumption of these resources, even though they are already severely depleted. This could endanger the livelihoods of up to 40 million people who rely on small-scale fishing for food and livelihoods and 1.6 billion who rely wholly or partially on forests.
Forests are home to 300 million people around the world, but more than 1.6 billion people depend to varying degrees on forests for their livelihoods, e.g. fuelwood, medicinal plants and forest foods. 60 million indigenous people are almost wholly dependent on forests.
Friends of the Earth International believes that a review of the impacts of international trade rules on the impoverished and the environment is urgently needed.
Friends of the Earth International – www.foei.org