WTO Director's Invitation Declined and 'Business Advisory Body' Blasted

June 12, 2003

WTO Director's Invitation Declined and 'Business Advisory Body' Blasted

Friends of the Earth International

June 12, 2003, Geneva / El Salvador -- An invitation by World Trade Organisation (WTO) Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi was declined by Ricardo Navarro, Salvadorean Chair of Friends of the Earth International, in a letter sent today.

Navarro declined to participate in a proposed 'Informal NGO Advisory Body' on several grounds, including that a proposed parallel 'Informal Business Advisory Body' would further consolidate the unparalleled access to trade negotiators that the business community already has. [ 1 ]

"This Business Advisory Body process could worsen rather than improve the WTO's endemic problems with secrecy, internally or with civil society," said Navarro.

Friends of the Earth International is appealing to the WTO Director to withdraw his proposal for the business body. There are many more steps that Dr Supachai could take. [ 2 ]

Navarro blasted the "unacceptable culture of secrecy prevalent in the WTO" and added: "We are deeply concerned by the perpetuation of the most extraordinarily undemocratic and non-transparent processes within the WTO."

"Civil society views have been ignored by many governments, and indeed by high-level members of the WTO Secretariat, including Supachai's predecessor, Mr Moore," Navarro stated.

Alternative ways forward on trade exist and Friends of the Earth International has spent several years discussing them. A copy of our report "Towards Sustainable Economies: challenging neoliberal economic globalisation" is available at : http://www.foei.org/publications/trade

Friends of the Earth International is the world's largest grassroots environmental federation with 68 national member groups in 68 countries and around one million members

For more information contact:

In El Salvador:
Ricardo Navarro
Chair of Friends of the Earth International
Ph: +503-220 0046
E mail: foeichair@navegante.com.sv

In Europe (UK):
Ronnie Hall
Ph: +44-7967017281
E mail: ronnieh@gn.apc.org

Note to Editors:

[1] Corporate lobby groups invited to the proposed 'Informal Business Advisory Body' include the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederation of Europe (UNICE), Nippon Keidanren and the United States Council for International Business (USCIB)
[2] The WTO relies on secretive green room meetings and mini-Ministerials that exclude both interested governments -generally from developing countries- and civil society alike. For damning information about these internal processes and steps that could be taken to change this please read 'Power Politics in the WTO" by Aileen Kwa of Focus in the Global South at www.focusweb.org

A copy of the letter sent today to WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi is available from media@foei.org