Public interests groups to US: Start pursing responsible trade talks

CANCUN, Mexico, September 13, 2003: minsterial reaction from IATP: U.S. public interest groups today called on the Bush administration to stop its attempts to bully developing countries at the World Trade Organization meeting in Cancun. The organizations also condemned administration trade policies that do not serve the interests of the world community or of the American people.

US conduct reprimanded

September 13, 2003: Non-governmental organizations from the United States issued the following statement today strongly criticizing U.S. attacks on the "Group of 23," the group of developing countries working together at the WTO to transform the body's farm trade rules. The groups also expressed support for the additional blocs of countries in the WTO who have come together to demand additional farm rule changes to safeguard the livelihoods of poor farmers (called the Alliance for Strategic Products and Special Safeguard Mechanisms):

"We are outraged by threats and attacks made by the United States against the Group of 23 developing countries in the WTO seeking important changes to the WTO's farm trade rules. The U.S. efforts to pressure developing countries to leave the G-23 are shameful and deplorable.

We call on the U.S. to stop these shameful attacks and to refrain from using bilateral pressure as a means to strong-arm other nations, including backroom coercion, calls from the White House and threats to terminate other trade benefits and stop on-going negotiations with these nations. We support the members of the G-21 and the Alliance for Strategic Products and Special Safeguard Mechanisms in their efforts to stand up to this U.S. pressure, which today caused Brazil to issue a statement calling for the end of the distracting and divisive tactics.

It is outrageous that the U.S. is attacking efforts to change WTO agricultural policies so that developing countries can safeguard their small farmers and ensure food sovereignty for the growing number of hungry people worldwide. The U.S. must end its opposition to policies that would eliminate the massive dumping of agricultural products into developing countries."

Among the most criticized tactics of the US delegation are efforts to pressure a block of developing nations to abandon their position on protecting small farmers. “In these times, the United States needs more friends and fewer enemies in the world,” said Mark Ritchie, President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “U.S. citizens are outraged that the administration would attempt to bully the “Group of 23” who are seeking important changes in farm trade rules.”

“The arrogant, heavy-handed, inflexible way U.S. negotiators are conducting themselves here has increased the erosion of any goodwill the other countries might have for the US, building an anti-American sentiment that undermines all U.S. international relations,” said Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

“New Issues” are another of the most contentious areas U.S. negotiators are attempting to forward. “The U.S. environmental community agrees strongly with the Group of 70 that there should be no negotiations on “new issues” such as investment. Investor rules could undermine hard-won protections for our air, water, and forests. The United States should honor the WTO agreement requiring explicit consensus and respect developing country demands to keep these issues off the table,” said Daniel Seligman, Director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.

Among the U.S. Trade Representative’s efforts at the talks is pressing for more countries to open up public services to corporations. “Providing healthcare, education, and water on a for-profit basis may price these basic rights out of the hands of poor women in developing countries,” said Marceline White, Director, Global Trade Program, Women’s Edge Coalition.

“Like the Administration’s failed domestic economic policies, its policy stance at the WTO will provide rich rewards for the largest corporations such as WalMart, while leaving workers and the environment behind,” said Gretchen Gordon, Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, “The Bush WTO agenda will put our domestic laws on the chopping block, increase corporate power at the expense of domestic public interest regulations, speed up the “race to the bottom” for workers, and fail to promote sustainable, equitable, and democratic development.”