Failure of WTO talks welcomed by pressure group

World Trade Organisation talks looking to deregulate aspects of international commerce ended in failure this week - a fact welcomed by Friends of the Earth and other Fairtrade campaigners.

The pressure group argues deregulation would further tilt the balance in favour of wealthy trading nations (see related story).

In a public statement it has said that no deal at the WTO meeting in Geneva was better than a bad deal and governments must adopt a new approach toward international trade policies.

Friends of the Earth feared politicians and their economic advisers would use the WTO to open markets and dismantle a wide range of national laws protecting the environment, social well-being and health.

"WTO talks must be halted," said Tony Juniper, FoE International's vice chairman.

"There needs to be a fuller understanding of what is at stake, who will benefit and who will loose out.

Trade in natural resources may well generate huge profits for big corporations, but will leave millions of people who depend on forests and fish with no livelihood."

Current WTO talks aim at freeing up trade in a range of sectors from agriculture to services to natural resources, which objectors fear will boost the enormous inequalities that exist in the current world trading system.

Trade liberalization as currently promoted by organizations like the WTO is seen by opponents as an aggressive attempt to open up developing country markets for the benefit of mostly Western multinational corporations.

In the past few years developing countries became more self-confident in rejecting trade 'offers' that are presented as pro-poor but that mostly benefit multinational corporations and a small elite instead.

According to the environmental federation, WTO-led liberalization poses a serious threat to the environment, as well as threaten the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in the developing world who depend on the natural environment for their survival.

Papers registered with the WTO show that countries are trying to use the negotiations to undermine measures designed to protect the environment, arguing that a range of green measures such as restrictions on the use of toxic chemicals and energy efficiency measures are barriers to trade.

By Sam Bond


agriculture | fish


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