Trade talks deadlock brings new hope for the poorest and the environment

Original Publication Date: 
23 July, 2006

Geneva (Switzerland), 24 July 2006 -- Campaigners from Friends of the Earth International today welcomed the collapse of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)'s trade negotiations. This means that there is now time to review and reconsider the multilateral trading system in its entirety.

This will be welcome news to millions of people around the world who feared that a WTO deal would have further impoverished the world's poorest people and caused irreparable damage to the environment. Developing countries, including India, also fear that a WTO deal would cause immense harm to millions of small and subsistence farmers.

Alberto Villarreal, Trade Campaigner at Friends of the Earth in Latin America, currently in Geneva, said "The collapse of these talks is good news. The proposals on the table had been driven by certain governments attempting to put the commercial interests of corporations before the needs of workers, farmers, and the global environment."

Ronnie Hall, Trade Campaigner at Friends of the Earth International added: "The delay created by the failure of the Doha negotiations must be used to review past negotiations and analyse the flaws in the WTO system as a whole. It will allow us to reflect on how to develop multilateral governance systems that will genuinely promote fair and sustainable societies that benefit everyone."

The so-called 'Doha Development Agenda' is not about development. Recent World Bank and other studies [1] - and even government negotiators [2] themselves - give witness to the fact that the current trade liberalizing agenda is not working for the majority of people in the developing countries. It is clear that the interests of the largest and most powerful countries and their transnational companies continue to dominate the WTO's agenda. [3]

Furthermore, consideration of the disastrous potential global environmental impact of current negotiating proposals is virtually non-existent within the WTO [4]. This is in spite of the fact that there is increasing evidence elsewhere, including from studies commissioned by the European Commission, that escalating international trade in natural resources is likely to damage global biodiversity and local economies. [5]

Indeed, if more natural resources are traded internationally instead of being available for use locally - as certain countries and transnational corporations wish - this could increase poverty for millions in the world's poorest communities.[6]

For example, forests and fish and fish products are both sectors slated for complete or exceptionally high levels of liberalization in the WTO's current negotiations. Yet worldwide, some 60 million indigenous people are almost completely reliant on forest resources for their livelihoods