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US-EU Trade Proposal: Old Wine, Different Bottles


US-EU trade proposal: Old wine, different bottles

International development agency Oxfam welcomed a long overdue meeting of Trade Ministers in the sidelines of the UN conference on Climate Change in Bali over the weekend to discuss how trade policies can contribute to, and not undermine, action on climate change.

However, the meeting has been seriously compromised by a proposal from the US and EU that uses the climate crisis to push for their trade liberalisation schemes heavily criticised at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This is a double whammy for poor countries. Not only are poor people bearing the brunt of climate change caused by industrialised nations, but rich countries are now also seeking to boost their exports by opening up developing countries' markets.

The US and EU have billed their proposal to eliminate tariff and non tariff barriers on a range of goods and services that can have environmental uses as bold and new, but according to Oxfam, it is neither.

"The UN conference on climate change is being used as a pretext to dust off old proposals that haven't gotten anywhere at the WTO," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand in Bali today. "A high priority for action on climate change is support of developing countries to access affordable and clean technology and to develop technology that is most appropriate to the challenges they face. But rich countries have done little to honour their commitments."

"Rather than taking bold action to provide resources for technology transfer to developing countries, the EU and the US are passing around old wine in new bottles," continued Coates. "With a long history of being on the receiving end of unfair trade practices, developing countries aren't fooled."

The proposal would open up developing country markets to goods that are mainly produced in rich countries. The list contains products and services, such as medical, surgical or laboratory equipment and sanitation services, with uses that extend beyond environmental benefit and certainly beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also, green technologies developed in rich countries can be too expensive and are not always the most appropriate for developing countries.

"There's good reason why developing countries have not fallen for similar proposals before," said Coates. "The US and EU have repeatedly sought market access in developing countries-- including for environmental goods and services - but they have steadfastly refused to reform their own unfair trade practices."

"This proposal could create the impression that the climate change challenge at the WTO can easily be addressed through promoting trade in a select few goods and services," said Coates. "For the WTO Doha negotiations to deliver an appropriate pro-poor outcome, a broader, more sustainable development dimension must be undertaken."

"There should be a new approach from the rich nations in trade negotiations, one that aims to support sound policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and poverty rather than pushing a mercantilist approach," concluded Coates.

ENDS

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