Free trade wrecks environment and communities – report

A free market economy might be what makes the world go round, but it must also shoulder its share of blame for trashing it, according to a report published this week.

Campaign group Friends of the Earth claims in a new study, The Tyranny of Free Trade, that the current WTO trade negotiations in Hong Kong present a real and present danger to people and their environment.

The danger that current WTO trade negotiations pose to people and their environment is exposed in a new report `The Tyranny of Free Trade’, published today (8 December 2005) by FoE International.

The report presents a series of case studies from the Seychelles to Indonesia exposing the environmental and social impacts of current “free” trade policies in including damage to forests, fisheries, food, minerals, water and biodiversity.

It presents evidence suggesting that intensive agricultural practices and liberalised international trade are leading to social disruption, environmental damage and even hunger, particularly in developing countries.

It argues that small-scale farmers are particularly vulnerable to market opening pressures and often forced from their land when it is converted to plantations or planted with crops for export.

FoE’s trade campaigner Eve Mitchell, said: “The mounting evidence from the World Bank, United Nations, World Resources Institute and our own research shows that the current system is making poor people poorer.

“Instead of basing trade on sensible resource management, it puts profits for big business first. The UK Government fully supports proposals at the WTO that take us in the wrong direction, despite promising us otherwise. This can’t continue.”

Her colleague Ronnie Hall, one of the report’s authors, said: “The myth of unfettered free trade as a solution to poverty needs to be exploded.

“Regional and bilateral trade agreements running in parallel are as un-transparent and as harmful as the WTO.

“What we need now is a halt to trade liberalisation negotiations and an urgent review of the impacts of international trade rules on poor people and the environment.”

By Sam Bond

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