WTO: Dangerous fudge--not victory for multilateralism

Press release - 1 August, 2004
Greenpeace warned that the WTO deal in Geneva--agreed many hours after an alleged "drop dead" deadline--is a face-saving exercise that is likely to result in further trade liberalisation at the expense of people and the environment. The deal is designed to allow governments to claim that the WTO trade system is intact, despite massive opposition to its negative social and environmental impacts worldwide.

The Geneva deal shifts most of the difficult issues to future negotiations. The final compromise is still highly imbalanced in favour of rich countries, which make vague promises in return for key concessions by developing countries. Greenpeace is particularly concerned that the agreement opens the door for further liberalisation in sensitive sectors such as fisheries and the trade in forest products and that new offers on liberalising the service sector are now to be submitted by May 2005. Both decisions could have devastating consequences for the poor and the environment.

"This deal is not a victory for multilateralism, but a dangerous fudge. The secretive process practiced in Geneva this week once again showed that the WTO is an undemocratic organisation mainly responsive to rich country interests," said Daniel Mittler, Greenpeace International Trade and Policy Advisor. "Greenpeace wants a just and sustainable multilateral trading system. But the WTO does not seem capable or willing to deliver equitable and sustainable development for all; the WTO only seems to be interested in ensuring its own survival."

After a week of exclusive behind-the-door negotiations, the final deal is reportedly the result of massive political pressure by the EU and the US, particularly on least developed countries. Developing countries had been blamed and punished by the US and EU after the collapse of the last WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico last year, even though it was in fact the excessive demands made by EU and US that led to the Cancun impasse.

The process in Geneva was deeply unfair. Many delegations were excluded from the negotiations. Some governments had their ministers present, but many did not. There was not sufficient time for many delegations to discuss drafts and the final text with their capitals. Many non-governmental organisations, such as Greenpeace, were not even allowed access to the WTO building.

Greenpeace calls on governments around the world to truly commit to multilateralism. As a vital first step, governments should make it clear that the WTO has to respect all multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Biosafety Protocol, which the US is currently trying to undermine through a WTO trade war on genetically engineered organisms with the EU.

"Governments must stand up for true multilateralism and ensure that the WTO cannot undermine multilateral agreements that protect people and the environment," concluded Mittler.