EAC 23.11.06

23 November 2006 World Trade Talks

23 November 2006 World Trade Talks

The international community risks a fundamental betrayal of the poorest people on Earth

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) publishes today its Eleventh Report of Session 2005-06 entitled Outflanked: The World Trade Organisation, international trade and sustainable development. The Report examines how international trade and World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations impact upon the environment and upon efforts to reduce poverty. The EAC concluded that the Doha Round negotiations have failed to consider fully the impacts of international trade on the environment and the poor, which might lead to the "completion of a Round which exacerbates poverty and is therefore likely to accelerate environmental damage". Colin Challen MP, Chairman of the Sub-committee heading the inquiry, said:

"The WTO, and the international trade system itself, is ripe for an urgent reassessment with regards to its interaction with the environment and sustainable development. It must be improved to make it better equipped to deal with the wide-ranging environmental and development consequences of international trade.

The Government should now focus its efforts on getting the Doha Round restarted, with the ultimate goal being to achieve a pro-poor, environmentally sustainable, conclusion. Anything less than this will mean that the developed world will have reneged on its commitment to making international trade work for, and not against, those people who need it most."

Notes for Editors

Some further conclusions of the report are set out below:

€ The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment shows that extensive environmental degradation has taken place which will have devastating impacts on the poor and vulnerable in developing countries.

€ It appears that the main international focus has been on the liberalisation of trade, with the benefits that this may bring, while failing to recognise the full environmental or social impacts that this liberalisation may have. It is paramount that, where liberalisation is pursued, effective accompanying measures are adopted to prevent or limit the environmental and social impacts. Without such measures, international trade liberalisation is only likely to add to environmental degradation.

€ We are concerned that there is a clear lack of consideration as to how UK trade and environmental policies can be made mutually supportive. There must be specific commitments in UK policy that the impact of trade on the environment will be fully considered, and effective flanking measures to offset the negative impacts of trade introduced. The Government must set out how it will seek to address the environmental impacts of trade.

€ Lack of joined-up thinking will result in missed opportunities to make trade, environment and development policies mutually supportive and risks environmental and developmental objectives being undermined by trade agreements. (this was specifically in relation to the WTO, but also stands for the Government).

€ The current lack of progress on formulating a coherent approach to trade, environment and development issues within the WTO suggests that an alternative approach may be needed.

€ WTO Members have failed to consider adequately the environmental impacts of the negotiations, making it likely at this stage that the legacy of a completed Round will include a loss of biodiversity and increased greenhouse gas emissions. We urge strongly the Government and EC to pursue aggressively a more sustainable outcome. Failure to address these issues will give the lie to the EU and UK Government assertions that they are at the forefront of action on climate change and sustainable development.

€ The EU has displayed a lack of political will to address sustainability issues by, for example, failing to remove agricultural market distorting measures within the EU. Until the EU has the political will to ensure that our negotiating positions are fully consistent with sustainable development objectives, we can not expect other WTO Members to take these issues seriously.

€ The UK Government should do its utmost to ensure that the Round does not fail in its stated development aims, and do more to fight for the interests of the poorest people. This not only means that the Government should work to improve the EU offer, but should also use our special relationship to seek to ensure that the US goes much further.

€ We are convinced that a level of special and differential treatment must be granted to developing countries in agricultural products in order to prevent the most vulnerable in these countries from being devastated by trade liberalisation.

€ Failure to protect developing country agriculture could lead to the completion of a Round which exacerbates poverty and is therefore likely to accelerate environmental damage. Such an outcome could be considered a fundamental betrayal of the poorest people on Earth.

€ Eventually we consider it necessary to ensure that all the external costs of products, such as greenhouse gas emissions, are internalised in their final price.

€ We reluctantly accept that there will be occasions when the economic or development benefits of a policy will mean that it is adopted, even where there will be negative environmental impacts. It is therefore imperative that adequate emphasis is placed on the need to adopt flanking measures to mitigate negative environmental impacts. Indeed, without the use of effective flanking measures, it is unlikely that trade liberalisation can be sustainable.

The report published today by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is its Eleventh Report of Session 2005-06, Outflanked: The World Trade Organisation, international trade and sustainable development, HC 1455. Details of all the Committee's press releases together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's website at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environmental_audit_committee.cfm

The Sub-committee will be reporting on a further inquiry on the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment before the end of the 2006.