December 30, 2003
1. WTO (World Trade Organisation)
Russia: Difficult WTO Talks Reach Misunderstanding-Tass, Dow Jones Business News, December 30, 2003
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev said that the talks on Russias admission to the World Trade Organization reached a very difficult stage of misunderstanding, according to a report by Itar-Tass.
IMPORTANT STEP FORWARD AT WTO - AUSTRALIA
A Step Towards Putting the Doha Round Back on Track, Media Release from Hon. Mark Vaile, M.P., Minister of Trade for Australia, December 17, 2003
Members of the World Trade Organization have made an important step towards putting the Doha Round back on track, Trade Minister Mark Vaile said today. Mr Vaile was speaking after senior officials from the WTOs 148 members met in Geneva to consider what action was necessary to move the Doha Round forward, as requested by Ministers at the conclusion of their meeting in Cancun in September. This General Council meeting followed intensive discussions over the last few months to bridge the differences over key outstanding issues emerging from Cancun. This meeting was more about process than negotiations, but the progress in identifying issues reconfirmed WTO members commitment to the Doha round agenda, Mr Vaile said. But no major breakthrough has been achieved, and there are still significant gaps remaining on a number of key areas. Importantly, Members have accepted the proposal from Castillo that the Doha round negotiating groups, suspended at Cancun, will be reactivated in the new year. Some further intensive consultations will be required before then on key issues. But this gives us a way forward.
INDIA OFFERS TO OPEN UP TELECOM, IT, HEALTH SERVICES
The Economic Times (India), December 31, 2003
The Indian government has submitted its offers at WTO to open up various services including health, telecom, engineering, construction, book-keeping and accounting, travel and tourism, maritime and computer-related services. Services negotiations at WTO are carried out in form of offers and requests, and according to official sources, India s offer for these sectors are in various modes of supply.
U.S. MISSES DEADLINE ON REPEAL OF TARIFF LAW
Bloomberg News, by Mark Drajem The United States missed a Saturday deadline from the World Trade Organization (WTO) to repeal a law that gives millions of dollars in tariff revenue to companies, exposing the U.S. to sanctions from the European Union, Canada and Japan.
Because of duties on Canadian softwood, International Paper, Temple-Inland and Potlatch are among U.S. timber companies that stand to gain at least $800 million from preservation of the Byrd amendment. This establishes a very strong lobby for the flow of the money to continue, said Calman Cohen, president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade, an association for U.S. exporters including Caterpillar and Maytag that favor repeal of the law.
WTO RELEASES INTERIM REPORT ON SOFTWOOD LUMBER
DFAIT Press Release, December 19, 2003
International Trade Minister Jim Peterson is pleased with reports that a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel has found that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) did not follow international trade rules when it determined that Canadian softwood lumber exports threaten to injure the U.S. industry. We have consistently maintained that countervailing and anti-dumping duties imposed by the U.S. on Canadian softwood lumber exports violate international trade rules.
2. AGRICULTURE & TRADE
A Coming Subsidy Storm WTO Clauses Expiration Will Add Pressure To Farm Policy Debates, Omaha World Herald, December 26, 2003
The debate over agricultural subsidies is probably about to get a lot hotter. A long-tanding clause in the World Trade Organization agreement, which protects countries ag subsidies from WTO disputes, expires at the end of the year. That may not lead to an immediate onslaught of wrangles, but it probably will mean that groups of countries will challenge subsidies on specific commodities, such as cotton or soybeans.
FARM SUBSIDIES COULD BE NEXT WTO BATTLE
USA Today (excerpted on Truth About Trade), December 29, 2003
Clashes could erupt in the World Trade Organization after midnight Wednesday, when a nine-year cease-fire over farm subsidies expires. Countries agreed on the peace clause in 1995 to avoid paralyzing the global trade system. They pledged not to enter formal dispute settlement over agricultural support until 2004. Most of the worlds $300 billion in farm subsidies goes to U.S. and European Union farmers, making it hard for poor nations to compete.
NGOs URGE WTO TO LET PEACE CLAUSE EXPIRE
WTO Urged To Let Peace Clause Expire: Clause Blamed For Expanding Agricultural Dumping From U.S. and EU, IATP Press Release, December 22, 2003
Over 30 organizations from around the world called on the WTO to allow the so-called
Peace Clause to expire on December 31, 2003. The Peace Clause restricts the ability of countries to challenge domestic support and export subsidies through the WTOs Dispute Resolution Body. While the Peace Clause is scheduled to expire on December 31, the EU and the U.S. have express their desire to see it extended for several years. The NGOs, in a letter to Ambassador PÚrez del Castillo, chairman of the WTO General Council, demanded that the Peace Clause be left to lapse when countries meet at the WTOs December 15 meeting .The NGOs wrote, The Peace Clause is one reason the Agreement on Agriculture is widely viewed to have made operational special and differential treatment for the rich. Since the measure comes at the expense of poorer members, it runs directly counter to the WTOs founding principles, and to any normal
understanding of international obligations.
4 AFRICAN COUNTRIES AGREE ON COTTON POLICY
West African countries agree on cotton production policy, Fiber 2 Fashion, DecemberÊ27, 2003 Eight member nations of a west African economic community announced they have agreed on a programme to boost the competitiveness of the cotton-textile sector
.They decided to set up a regional fund for cotton production and promotion, and for investment in textiles, said the statement issued by the eight nations joint central bank, the Dakar-based BCEAO
.In September, Mali, Benin and Burkina Faso were joined by Chad at World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Mexico, in seeking a cotton initiative, where the United States and European Union would drop all subsidies to their cotton producers. http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/NewsDetails.asp?News_id=5504
MAKING SENSE OF MAD COW
IATP Calls on USDA to Protect U.S. Farmers, Consumers and Livestock from Mad Cow Disease, IATP Press Release, December 24, 2003
Given the total integration of the U.S. fast food and supermarket industries, largely the result of only a few companies controlling most of our food supply, we know that this long-anticipated announcement will be devastating to family farmers and ranchers all over the United States and possibly in Canada, stated Mark Ritchie, President of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In this day of industrialized beef production and liberalized trade, it is disingenuous for US Agriculture Secretary Veneman to say this is about one isolated cow. There is too much at stake for our cattle farmers, said Ritchie. With an incubation period of up to six years for this disease, it is imperative that the Bush Administration stop trying to hide this problem and start investigating who else might be at risk and taking action to prevent further threats to human lives.
FAST FOOD STEADY DESPITE MAD COW
McDonalds, Others Steady Despite Mad Cow, Reuters, December 31, 2003
McDonalds, Burger King and Wendys said this week hamburger sales have held steady since the first case of mad cow disease in the United States surfaced last Tuesday. The continuity of business at the three largest U.S. hamburger chains suggests American consumers willingness to shrug off the mad cow incident as an isolated case they believe will have little bearing on food safety. Shares of McDonalds Corp. and Wendys International Inc. continued a modest run-up on the New York Stock Exchange Monday. Burger King is privately held.
WTO PROPOSALS UNACCEPTABLE FOR SOME PRODUCERS
Supply management puts on brave face, by Barry Wilson, Western Producer, December 29, 2003
Canadas multibillion-dollar supply-managed sector wants to see a successful conclusion to World Trade Organization negotiations and thinks there are gains to be made for its dairy, poultry and egg farmers, insists Chicken Farmers of Canada general manager Mike Dungate. The caveat is that proposals now on the negotiating table in Geneva are unacceptable. They would force Canada to increase minimum access and reduce tariffs that keep out product above the guaranteed access level.
3. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
Parliament wants strict EU-wide rules for co-existence, EurActiv, December 18, 2003
The EU Directive on genetically modified food and feed from July 2003 stipulates that any products containing more than 0.9 per cent GMOs have to be labelled (see EurActiv, 23 July 2003). To ensure this threshold can be complied with, additional rules are necessary concerning the purity and labelling of the seeds that food products are derived from. As it is today practically impossible for farmers to achieve 100 per cent non-genetically modified products, the Commission recently published guidelines suggesting a tolerance level of 0.3 and 0.7 per cent of the adventitious [accidental] or technically unavoidable presence of GMOs in crops, depending on the variety. However, according to the Commission, the responsibility for setting conditions for the co-existence of crops should lie with the individual Member States .The Parliaments own-initiative report was adopted in the plenary session on 18 December. It demands a more effective and stricter protection for organic and conventional farmers against the accidental contamination of their products .Moreover, the report says that GMO producers should have civil liability for any cross-contamination of non-GMO products. Member States wishing to restrict GMO cultivation in certain geographical areas should have the right to do so.
MONSANTO CANADA SAYS GO SLOW ON MODIFIED WHEAT
Reuters, December 22, 2003
Monsantos Canadian division on Thursday promised a go-slow approach for its genetically modified wheat, and said it would not seek registration for the grain for production in 2004. Instead the company will test the wheat further and wait until this time next year to gauge how close it is to meeting a series of commitments it has for commercializing wheat that has been genetically modified to resist a specific weedkiller.Ê
4. FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) & NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)
On NAFTAs 10th birthday, supporters and detractors debate its future, impact, by LISA ADAMS, AP, December 30, 2003 As the North American Free Trade Agreement reaches its 10th anniversary Thursday, supporters and detractors are debating the future of the treaty and its impact on free trade in the Americas and around the world . [P]ublic advocacy and special interest groups pledge to block future agreements based on NAFTA, which they call a miserable failure.
The opponents claim the agreement cost thousands of jobs in the three countries, widened the gap between rich and poor and superseded national sovereignty in terms of the environment, worker rights and economic security. They argue that NAFTA needs to be renegotiated and that new accords need to take these issues into account. Even supporters agree that while NAFTA has brought benefits, it is not a panacea for any economy. These free trade agreements are not a magic potion for development, said Daniel Lederman, World Bank senior economist and co-author of the recent report titled, NAFTA Is Not Enough.
DESPITE CLAIMS, FREE TRADE WIDENED THE GAP AND COST JOBS
Despite free trade claims, big business lobbys members shed jobs and amassed wealthreport, CCPA Press Release, December 22, 2003
With the 15th anniversary of the Canada-US Free Agreement just days away, a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives examines the free trade claims of the big business lobby, the BCNI (now the CCCE), in relation to its own performance over the last 15 years. [The report] looked at BCNIs free trade jobs claim in relation to the employment record of 39 of its own member companies during the last 15 years. It found that overall, the 39 companies increased their combined revenues by $144 billion, a 105% jump during 1988-2002 These same 39 companies decreased their collective workforce by 100,268, or 14.5% during the same period.
THE FREE TRADE EFFECT
The free-trade effect: A decade after the North American Free Trade Agreement passed, jobs are still leaving Western New York - but NAFTA has been neither a disaster nor a cure-all, The Buffalo News, December 29, 2003
Ten years ago, when the United States, Canada and Mexico entered into an unprecedented trade deal, Ross Perot predicted a giant sucking sound of jobs headed south of the border. Now, though, if you talk to the experts about the North American Free Trade Agreement, youre more likely to hear a giant yawning sound. As Jan. 1 - the 10-year anniversary of NAFTA - approaches, economists say neither the prophets of gloom nor the prophets of boom have turned out to be correct. Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow at the Institute for International Economics, said theres a simple explanation for that fact. There is no doubt that the politicians oversold NAFTA, Schott said.
NAFTA & THE BUSH AGENDA
As NAFTA Turns Ten, Sound the Alarm About Bushs Risky Trade Agenda, Sierra Clubs (U.S.) Responsible Trade Program Action Alert, December 23, 2003
On January 1, 2004 NAFTA turns ten. Thats ten years of pollution, job loss, and corporations elevated over our communities. Now President Bush wants to put more communities at risk by expanding the NAFTA model across the entire Western Hemisphere, starting with Central America. TAKE ACTION On or around January 1, write a letter to the editor explaining how NAFTA and Bushs trade agenda puts your community at risk.
HARMONIZATION OF MFN STANDARDS: CDN CONSULTATION
Harmonization of MFN tariffs with the United States and Mexico and liberalization of the rules of origin under NAFTA, Department of Finance Consultation
Closing date: February 13, 2004
Who may respond: This consultation is open to anybody interested in participating.
ANTI-FTAA ACTIVISTS CALL FOR SUPPORT: BOMB ATTACK ON DEMO
Argentina: Condemn the Bomb Attack on a Political Demonstration, Argentina Solidarity Committee, posted December, 23, 2003
Workers Action condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the bombing at a major political demonstration in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 12/20/03. The target was a 60,000 strong protest commemorating the anniversary of the upsurge of 2001, which resulted in the resignation of four consecutive presidents .We urge all workers organizations, participants of the anti-FTAA and anti-globalization movements to send protests to the Embassy and Consulates of the Republic of Argentina.
Good News for the Tay River!, Council of Canadians Press Release, December 18, 2003
The Council of Canadians welcomes Ontarios Environment Ministers surprise announcement of one-year moratorium on all new and expanding permits to take water in the province of Ontario, effective immediately. The Eves government allowed OMYA (Canada) Inc., a calcium carbonate operation in Perth, Ontario, to triple its water-takings in the new year, subject only to the requirement that it convince Ministry officials of its need. The moratorium will prevent OMYA from removing the additional water from the Tay River in the new year.
CALIFORNIA WATER RESOURCES PLUNDERED
Profiteers Plunder Californias Public Water Resources, New Report Shows -
Free From Public Oversight, Agribusiness and Development Corporations Have Grabbed Too Much Control, Public Citizen Press Release, December 19, 2003
OAKLAND, Calif. Through deals shrouded from public scrutiny, private and semi-private entities have taken control of some of Californias most vital water resources, a new Public Citizen report shows. The report, Water Heist: How Corporations are Cashing in on Californias Water, shows how the private control of water has enriched and empowered a few, to the detriment of the environment and consumers throughout California.
POLLUTION SPREADS AS ECONOMIES BOOM: ASIA
In Asia, Pollution Spreads as Economies Boom, Reuters, December 30, 2003
Every two years, Indonesia loses about 15,500 square miles of forest, an area roughly the size of Switzerland, to rapacious logging. Skies in northern China glow orange in sandstorms that cross the Pacific and lay dust on the western United States. In Hong Kong, raw sewage bobs in its pearl-blue harbor. From inner Mongolia to the Indian subcontinent and tropical Southeast Asia, says one senior United Nations environmental official, the regions ecology and environment is deteriorating as its factories and economies boom.
COURT SUSPENDS BUSH POLLUTION RULES
Reuters, December 30, 2003
A federal court on Wednesday halted a Bush administration plan to allow power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities to make upgrades to aging plants without installing costly new air pollution control equipment. A coalition of environmental groups and states sued to stop the new rules issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, saying the policy changes violated the federal Clean Air Act and would result in more emissions being spewed into the air. Emissions from coal-fired power plants and refineries can aggravate asthma, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia. The U.S. appeals court in Washington, agreed to temporarily set aside the changes to the EPAs new source review rules and said they could not take effect until the lawsuit challenging their legality was finished.
BUSH POLICY TO ALLOW MORE LOGGING IN ALASKA FOREST
Reuters, December 29, 2003
The Bush administration opened up undeveloped areas of the largest U.S. national forest to logging on Tuesday, scrapping a Clinton-era rule aimed at protecting the wilderness. The U.S. Forest Service announced that it will exempt the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska from a national rule prohibiting timber cutting in roadless areas.
The decision means about 300,000 acres of dense, old-growth rain forest will be available for logging. The forest covers nearly 17 million acres.
EU-US: EU Annual Report on US Trade Barriers stresses need for enhanced co-operation, EC Press Release, December 19, 2003
The European Commission today released its nineteenth annual report on barriers to trade and investment in the US, detailing the obstacles that EU exporters and investors face in the US. It highlights those obstacles which the EU believes are affecting the legitimate rights of EU companies to conduct trade with the US.
1 IN 7 AT RISK OF POVERTY IN EUROPE: REPORT
Commission report: one in seven people at risk of poverty in EU, EC Press Releasem December 18, 2003
The Commission has released a Draft Joint Report on Social Inclusion, analysing the National Action Plans (2003-2005) of Member States on poverty and social inclusion. This report follows up on process launched at the Lisbon Summit (March 2000) to reduce the number of people living in poverty and social exclusion in the Union. The data compiled and compared by the Commission finds that 55 million (equivalent to 15 per cent) of the EUs population are on low incomes. The report confirms that those most at risk of poverty are the long-term unemployed, single parents, older people living alone and families with many children.
TOUGHER GLOBAL COPYRIGHT LAWS MAY BE AHEAD
Will DVD acquittal mean tougher copyright laws?, byÊEvan Hansen, CNET, December 24, 2003
The acquittal of a Norwegian programmer charged with breaking Hollywoods DVD encryption scheme could lend new urgency to the entertainment industrys efforts to enact tougher global copyright laws.
Sierra Club of Canada has an active programme on Trade and the Environment. SCC has challenged Chapter 11 through the courts on the S.D.Myers case, played an integral role in the fight against the MAI and works in coalition with the Common Front on the WTO, Common Frontiers and the Canadian Alliance on Trade and the Environment.