Face-saving declaration by the WTO fails to address the real impacts of free trade

Press release - 2005-12-18
In an outright rejection of the Ministerial Declaration issued at the culmination of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Sixth Ministerial, Greenpeace has termed the meeting a failure for environment and development. While the declaration allows participating governments to claim that the WTO trade system is intact, it completely fails to address the environmental and social consequences of free trade.

"The declaration is a contemptible face-saving exercise by the WTO," said Daniel Mittler, Trade Policy Advisor at Greenpeace International, "Although it is full of development rhetoric, the final compromise is highly imbalanced in favour of rich countries. True, an agreement has been reached, but governments have agreed on little more than how to continue talking in 2006. Many of the most difficult issues have been conveniently shifted to future negotiations."

Greenpeace rejects the adoption of the so-called 'Swiss formula' under the non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations. Developing countries have been given some warm words on development in the NAMA text - but will still have to drastically lower tariffs on non-agricultural goods.

Greenpeace is particularly concerned that the NAMA deal pushes for increasing liberalisation in sectors such as electronic goods, fisheries and forests. As Greenpeace has repeatedly warned, liberalisation in these sectors will inevitably result in further negative social and environmental impacts - more discarded electronic goods will be dumped on developing countries, more trees will be destroyed in the world's forests, and even more fish will be pillaged from the oceans.

The WTO has failed to adequately address demands by developing countries to prevent the legitimisation of an assault on their biological resources for the benefit of developed country corporations, once again replacing real action on development with more negotiations.

Rich countries claim, nonetheless, that they have made major concessions. However, even the much fought-over phasing out of agricultural export subsidies by 2013 is too little, too late.

"It is scandalous that the rich countries have gained concessions in return for merely promising, for the third time over, to end export subsidies which imperil the livelihood of millions. These subsidies should have stopped long ago!" exclaimed Mittler, "Instead of selling the Hong Kong compromise as a step forward, governments should be bold enough to initiate a complete social and environmental review of the global trade system and admit that sustainable, fair trade is the only way ahead."

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.