Appalling Hong Kong Trade Deal Threatens People And Environment

December 19, 2005

HONG KONG (CHINA), December 18, 2005 : Although a face-saving deal was reached on trade issues here today, the global trade system remains in crisis. Today's agreement contains proposals that will further threaten the global environment and the livelihoods of the worlds' poorest people.

"The so-called gains for developing countries are just little crumbs that will not make up for the price millions of farmers, fisher folk, Indigenous Peoples and others in the developing world will have to pay as a result of the rest of today's deal," said Friends of the Earth International chair Meena Raman from Malaysia.

The European Union, the US administration and their allies have ignored the demands of thousands of peasant farmers and fisherfolk protesting outside the conference. Proposals to open markets in farming and natural-resource sectors, including forests, fisheries and minerals, will benefit the world's largest corporations, but are likely to have a devastating impact on millions of the world's poorest people, who rely on access to natural resources for their livelihoods, food and medicines.

"The deal struck in Hong Kong deal is a dangerous one. Developing countries may feel that they have succeeded in limiting some of the damage they thought would be inflicted upon them. But they are still stuck with stark market opening proposals that could devastate biodiversity and people's livelihoods in years to come" added Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaigner Ronnie Hall.

Intensive agricultural practices and liberalized international trade are leading to social disruption, environmental damage and even hunger, particularly in developing countries. Small-scale farmers are particularly vulnerable to market opening pressures and often forced from their land when it is converted to plantations or planted with crops for export.

Governments meeting in Hong Kong, supposedly to offer the poorest countries a 'development' deal, have repackaged old aid, disguising it as new money for developing countries. Furthermore, promises of loans for infrastructure projects will increase debt burdens and open developing countries to further corporate exploitation.

It is ironic that some of the poorest countries in the world are still being put under extreme pressure to open up their markets in the name of development, even when they have protested that it could lead to deindustrialization and increased poverty and unemployment.

In addition, rich countries' governments have rejected attempts to begin to recognize the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples to retain rights over their own traditional knowledge and natural resources. Negotiations to 'reduce or eliminate' environmental and health standards will also be intensified.

The Hong Kong deal on services removes flexibility from developing countries who don't want to negotiate away services such as water and energy to multinational corporations.

"Hong Kong clearly shows that the WTO cannot deliver what people need. Thousands of farmers and fisherfolk are on the streets demanding that their livelihoods and families be protected, but they have been ignored by governments meeting in the WTO. Rich countries have continued to pursue their own trade interests at the expense of the poor and the environment," said Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaigner Alberto Villarreal.

'tyranny of free trade' exposed in new report, online here:

FOR MORE INFORMATION: until December 19 in Hong Kong:

Ronnie Hall, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign +852 6129 0419 or email [email protected]

David Waskow, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign +852 6127 8644) or email [email protected]

Alexandra Wandel, Friends of the Earth Europe Trade Campaign: +852 6125 7644 or email :[email protected]

Alberto Villarreal, Friends of the Earth International Trade Campaign +852 6127 0200 or email [email protected]

Meena Raman, Chair, Friends of the Earth International +852 6129 0032 or email [email protected].

Media Coordinator - Friends of the Earth International - FoEI
Amsterdam (Netherlands) - Tel +31-20-6221369