WTO Conference in Hongkong:
Greens attack Mandelson's aggressive approach to trade talks
The Green/EFA group in the European Parliament today voted against a compromise resolution on the upcoming 6th WTO Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Hong Kong, supported by PPE, PSE and the Liberals. The Greens/EFA said that the text fails to address the key problems of the trade talks: it does not take up the serious concerns of the developing countries that the development agenda agreed upon in Doha has been diluted to nothing. And it does not tackle one of the main reasons for the foreseeable failure of the Hong Kong Ministerial: that is to say Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson's aggressive approach. Despite the reluctance of the majority of WTO members, DG Trade continues to push issues on the Hong Kong agenda which neither the developing countries nor European representatives of industry and agriculture support.
"There is a widening gulf between the rhetoric from the EU, which is all about the importance of development, and the reality, which is that the majority of developing countries are continuing to be ignored", Caroline Lucas MEP and UK Member of the official EP delegation to Hong Kong, said. "In spite of the fine words from the British Presidency about not forcing poor countries to open their markets, the Commission is pursuing an extremely aggressive negotiating strategy designed to achieve precisely that. The demands Commissioner Mandelson is making on industrial market access, for example, threatens the very survival of local manufacturing in some developing countries."
"The resolution adopted today by Parliament has three serious flaws. It does not insist on a definitive time table for the phasing out of all export subsidies in agriculture. It supports a change of principle of GATS, unilaterally introduced by the EU, which is extremely damaging to developing countries. It would change the request - offer regime to one of benchmarking across all services sectors. Benchmarking with identical liberalisation targets for all countries, however, squeezes the developing countries into a process that does not leave them policy space to decide on their own economic model. And finally the text supports a linear cut of industrial tariffs, which hurts developing countries most", Marie-Hélène Aubert MEP and French EP delegate to Hong Kong, added.
"NGOs have joined in the criticism of the WTO resolution. Development and the environment will really be in trouble, if non-trade barriers (NTBs) are dismantled, as the resolution demands. "NTBs are nothing but national laws meant to protect the environment, social well-being and health. Without them, our climate, soils and biodiversity will be threatened. There is a total failure by the EU to ensure that trade policies can deliver their promises on environmental protection", Alexandra Wandel from Friends of the Earth said.
Taking up numerous calls from civil society organisations across the world, as well as from developing and least developed countries' representatives, Greens/EFA supported a renewed focus on sustainable development. "The export oriented model imposed by the WTO as well as multinational financial institutions has increased the amount of goods and services transported around the globe, accelerated financial flows and brushed up trade statistics, but at the same time it has had devastating effects on the stability and well being of many countries and the majorities of their populations in a process of de-industrialisation, destruction of the environment and de-rooting of people. It is time to go back to the principle of putting people first", Caroline Lucas said.
For the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong the Greens/EFA expects another failure, like in Cancún, if the Commission as the competent negotiating authority does not abandon its arrogant and hypocritical attitude.