News
12/12/99
From:  
Subject: WTO talks end in faliure, no way forward for GE foods

WTO talks end in disagreement, US fail to get their way on GE foods.

Ministers from the 135 WTO member states left Seattle without agreeing to continue trade negotiations. The US government has failed for the time being to use the WTO to foist genetically engineered foods on the world. Initially it appeared that the EU executive Commission, who were negotiating on behalf of all EU countries, had caved in to a US demand to set up a working group on biotechnology within the WTO.

Trade Ministers from the EU, Japan, Switzerland, Hungary and Turkey proposed a working group looking at health and environmental, as well as trade issues surrounding biotechnology. The US is only willing for the group to talk about trade; they want quick implementation of rules within the WTO to force member countries to accept imports of biotechnology products. US farmers have lost a $200 million corn export market in Europe in the last two years, because the EU has not approved GE corn grown in the US for sale.

"The United States wants a narrowly defined working group focused on trade aspects of biotechnology and with a defined time limit before work on developing international rules for approval procedures would begin" stated Tim Galvin, of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Foreign Agricultural Service.

Protests and consumer demand for non-GE food pushed governments to oppose the US. Farmers in the US are turning away from GE, with some seed companies reporting a 20% fall in demand for GE seed. There are some predictions of a shortage of non-GE seed.

There was another standoff over agriculture between the European Union and Japan on one side and exporters such as the United States and the 18-member Cairns Group of major agricultural producing countries, on the other. According to the US "The European Union spends 50 percent of its overall budget on agricultural supports that distort trade. This includes $7 billion ($7,000 million) in export subsidies".

The EU is prepared to talk about reducing farm export subsidies but not their total elimination, as demanded by the United States and the Cairns group, whose members include countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Canada. Blocs of nations from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America lodged formal complaints against the proceedings and announced they would withhold their consent from any ministerial declaration that did not reflect their concerns. ''There is no sense by the membership at large that it owns the conference,'' said chief Caribbean negotiator and former Commonwealth Chairman Shridath Ramphal. ''What is important is that the blame is allowed to rest where it deserves to rest, and that is with the United States and the WTO.'' Even the Financial Times was made to comment in its editorial "The EU and the U.S. are´┐Ż still intent on bullying developing countries"

Recommended web based info on the WTO:

ZNet a radical web based magazine with tonnes of articles and links on the WTO- the worldwide protests, implications and background. - highly informative and highly recommended http://zmag.org/ZNETTOPnoanimation.html

Many good articles on WTO at US Corporate Watch site
http://www.corpwatch.org/trac/corner/worldnews/other/516.html

Intellectual Property Rights: The Economic Myths Excellent report by GRAIN and the Gaia Foundation on the TRIPs agreement that came out of the "Uruguay round" of the WTO
http://www.grain.org/publications/gtbc/issue3.htm