|Vol.7, No.28, 12.7.01, p2
EU plans for liberalising world trade could make it illegal for governments to introduce stringent regulations on protecting the environment, a coalition of green and development lobby groups claimed this week.
The Seattle to Brussels Network is enraged by the Union's proposal that obstacles to the free trade of "environmental services" such as waste management and the provision of water should be removed as part of a worldwide general agreement on trade in services (GATS). This recommendation is being discussed at the current session of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) sub-group, which runs until 18 July.
Alexandra Wandel, a campaigner with Friends of the Earth, took issue with a recent European Commission paper which claimed the proposal would benefit the environment. Instead, she argued, it could mean that measures taken by member states, such as imposing restrictions on the amount of groundwater extracted from particular areas, would contravene binding WTO rules.
More than 80 recommendations about liberalising the global trade in services have been tabled during the WTO-sponsored discussions, most coming from the US and Europe.
The conference of world trade ministers to be held in Qatar this November is expected to determine whether the GATS agreement should be finalised as part of a new round of talks on international trade or as part of a 'stand-alone' process. "A lot of concern has been expressed by the developing countries represented in Geneva about the avalanche of market access proposals from the richer countries," said Clare Joy of the World Development Movement.
The Dutch-based Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) criticised former Trade Commissioner Leon Brittan for urging his successor Pascal Lamy to push for extensive liberalisation of the international trade in services. Now the vice-president of investment bank UBS Warburg, Brittan has been lobbying EU officials on GATS on behalf of the Lotis Committee, which represents the financial services industry in London.
The CEO's Erik Wesselius also lamented the lack of transparency surrounding the EU's trade discussions. The Council of Ministers 'committee 133', which formulates policies on external trade, is not subject to any parliamentary scrutiny and does not make the minutes of its meetings available to outsiders, he said.
EU plans for liberalising world trade could make it illegal for governments to introduce stringent regulations on protecting the environment, a coalition of green and development lobby groups has claimed.
|Business and Industry, Internal Markets, Trade