Trade used as excuse to attack EU green legislation

European laws protecting the environment, social well-being and health could come under attack at international trade discussions, Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe has warned this week.

It claims that governments from countries including Japan, Korea, Mexico and the United States are planning to use the new World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations to dismantle a wide range of EU laws.

Legislation covering chemical testing, fisheries, timber and petroleum production, energy efficiency, recycling and standards in the electronics and automobile industries have all been cited as "barriers to trade" by officials from these countries over the last few months.

In total, the challenges under the so-called "non-agriculture market access" negotiations include 72 specific challenges to environmental and health standards around the world.

According to FoE Europe spokesperson Alexandra Wandel, a wealth of legislation designed to protect both people and the environment could be undone if these governments succeed.

Legislation coming under attack includes the EU's Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) proposal, the WEEE Directive for the recycling of electrical and electronic goods, and laws on illegal logging.

Also targeted for elimination were measures that:

  • Ensured the labelling of all home appliances showing their energy efficiency ratings
  • Promote fuel efficiency by reducing taxes that give a competitive advantage to cars with small engines and through corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards
  • Permit consumers to know which containers and products can be recycled
  • Conserve natural resources and promote local economic development in developing countries by restricting exports of forest and mineral products
  • Allow developing countries to direct and control foreign direct investment in the automobile and petroleum oils sectors

    "We simply cannot allow the EU to support these negotiations - our future is at stake," Ms Wandel said. "The WTO is finally showing its true colours."

    "This is a breath-taking and shameful attack on environmental and social standards. Chemical pollution, climate change, deforestation, depleted fish stocks, waste - none of these things seem to matter in the slightest when it come to the quick buck."

    By Jane Kettle

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