March 1, 2004
1. WTO (World Trade Organisation)
WTO Chief sees new momentum to the world trade talks, REUTERS, February 28, 2004
The head of the World Trade Organisation said yesterday that world trade talks appear to have recovered from their collapse six months ago in Cancun, Mexico, and could make substantial progress by July. A letter from US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick in January urging WTO members to re-engage in negotiations came just at the time we needed this stimulus, WTO Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi told reporters. Senior officials from WTO member countries could be invited to Geneva in April to try to resolve differences on agriculture and other issues that blocked agreement on a final negotiating framework in Cancun, Supachai said. WTO members also are considering Zoellicks idea of expanding the July meeting of the WTO General Council by inviting trade ministers to attend .Supachai said he would withhold judgement [sic] until after the July meeting about whether a final deal can be reached by the long-established Jan. 1, 2005, deadline.
ASSOCIATED PRESS, by MARY DALRYMPLE, February 29, 2004
The United States comes under World Trade Organization penalties for the first time tomorrow, the result of congressional failure to steer through presidential politics, employment anxiety and budget deficits and head off the tariffs. A 5 per cent penalty tariff awaits U.S. exports such as jewellery and refrigerators, toys and paper. The penalty climbs by 1 percentage point for each month that lawmakers fail to bring U.S. laws in line with international trade rulings. The tariffs penalize the United States for failing to eliminate a tax break that is worth $5 billion (U.S.) a year to U.S. exporters. It was declared an illegal export subsidy by the WTO and lawmakers agree they must repeal it.
AGRICULTURE NEGOTIATIONS: SIGNALS OF RENEWED MOMENTUM CROPPING UP
Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest, February 26, 2004
New signs of movement in agriculture negotiations the key element of the Doha round are cropping up after a period of scant progress following the collapse of trade talks in Cancun in September 2003. Due to a number of high-level meetings between individual trade ministers and groups of ministers over the past weeks, there are new signs that agriculture talks may be picking up speed. Key actors such as the US, the EC and the G-20 group of developing countries have signaled a renewed commitment to the round and a willingness to compromise.
EU IMPOSES SANCTIONS ON US GOODS
Reuters, by Patrick Lannin, February Feb 29, 2004
The European Union imposed sanctions on the United States for the first time on Monday as a dispute over tax breaks for U.S. firms turned into a trade war that could cost American exporters $300 million this year. The lower tax rates for exports for firms, including Boeing and Microsoft, were judged an illegal subsidy by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which ruled the EU could impose $4 billion in sanctions a year on U.S. goods. But European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy decided to apply gradual pressure by phasing in the measures, which will hit a wide range of goods, including textiles, jewelry and toys.
SPEECH BY PASCAL LAMY
Moving the Doha Development Agenda Forward, Speech by Pascal Lamy, EC Trade, to European American Business Council, February 26, 2004
Do not assume that 2004 is a year for the dogs on the Doha Round. It is evident that we are in an era of what I have called generalised trade fatigue, an era where the constant pressures and challenges of globalisation have the capacity to wear down decision-making by governments. But at the same time, there are a lot of Ministers out there who are very committed to moving forward. Indeed, since Cancun, we have come a long way. We have all had our internal reflection processes. And more importantly, all WTO members also collectively expressed their commitment in December and followed this up by taking a decision at the WTO GC in February on the chairs of the different negotiating groups. So there is also progress on the practical steps necessary to get the negotiation machinery going again in Geneva. Geneva is back to work.
TRADE PERMEATES BIODIVERSITY TALKS IN KUALA LUMPUR
Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest, February 20, 2004
At the seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-7) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 9 to 20 February, trade-related considerations cropped up in almost every area of discussion, including in some of the more unlikely places, such as mountain biodiversity and inland water systems. Many civil society groups deplored what they saw as a sell-out to the WTO, calling for WTO-related issues to be kept out of the CBD discussions. While delegates managed to resolve some of the more overt disagreements over trade-related language, the impact of underlying trade considerations continued to be felt during plenary discussions and in the final outcomes.
2. GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)
PR Flaks Worry About Outcome of Mendocino County Vote to Ban GE Crops
Activists Around the World Watch Mendocino County: An Example of Corporate vs Activist PR, by Ross Irvine, ePublic Relations Ltd, February 2004
Its corporate PR versus activist PR in Californias Mendocino County where the two forces are in a battle over biotechnology. On March 2, county voters will decide the future of biotechnology in their community. The outcome will have repercussions in communities around the world. Whats drawing the battle lines is Measure H that, if approved by voters, would make it unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically modified organisms in Mendocino County. Voter approval would make Mendocino Country the first genetically-modified-organism-free (GMO-free) county in the country. Approval will inspire and encourage activists in other American communities and threaten the biotech industry in countless communities around the world.
EU & DEVELOPING NATIONS CLASH WITH US OVER GMO TEATY
Disputes Stall Biotech Trade Talks, by SEAN YOONG, Associated Press
Europe and developing countries clashed with the United States Thursday about the global trade in genetically modified commodities, with the former demanding strict labeling and liability laws and the latter seeking looser guidelines. As a five-day conference on biotechnology safety neared its conclusion, government officials, scientists and environmentalists from more than 80 nations remained mired in disputes about whether gene-spliced crops might benefit - or befoul - human health and the environment.
US EXPORTERS FORCED TO LABEL GE FOODS
87 Countries Agree to New International Protections from Genetic Contamination Agreement Will Force U.S. Exporters To Label GE Foods, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Press Release, FEBRUARY 27, 2004
Eighty-seven countries reached an historic agreement here today that takes concrete steps towards establishing new, internationally recognized rights to protect public health, sustainable agricultural production and the environment from genetic contamination caused by international trade in genetically engineered (GE) organisms. Although the steps taken were modest - addressing liability, labeling and information-sharing related to the international shipping of GE organisms - the consensus reached by the parties to the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety represented a sharp rebuff to the Bush Administrations intensive behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts to undermine the treaty through a coalition of the bribed and bullied, said Dennis Olson of the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, referring to a few countries like Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina who often acted as US proxies during the five days of negotiations.
STUDIES INDICATE SERIOUS HUMAN HEALTH HAZARDS FROM GMOs
New Health Dangers of Genetically Modified Food (and vaccines) Discovered, Institute for Responsible Technology Press Release, February 24, 2004
Data from three groups of studies currently being conducted by the Norwegian Institute for Gene Ecology, in Tromsö, Norway, reveal potentially serious health dangers of genetically modified (GM) foods and vaccines .evidence of health dangers from his recently published book, Seeds of Deception, including new information that incriminates the genetic engineering of the food supplement L-tryptophan as the cause of an epidemic in the U.S. in the 1980s, which took the lives of about 100 Americans and caused 5-10,000 to fall sick or become disabled.
CONTAMINATION OF CONVENTIONAL SEED WITH GE PROMPTS CALL TO PROTECT ORGANIC SEED
Press Release of the Organic Trade Association, FEBRUARY 25, 2004
Findings released by the Union for Concerned Scientists showing widespread contamination of conventional seed by genetically engineered (GE) materials give a clear indication that those wishing to avoid planting GE crops may, in fact, be inadvertently planting GE contaminated crops.
WORLD AWAITS MORE GM CROPS AS SAFETY DEBATE RAGES
Reuters, March 1, 2004
The global sowing of genetically modified (GM) crops will continue rising in the next few years, gaining more of a foothold in the worlds food supply, but millions still need convincing that the food is safe to eat. For once, green groups can agree with the biotech industry on one thing: with Brazil and China now part of the growing family of major GM producers, the area of land devoted to gene-spliced crops across the world must inevitably rise. The United States, Argentina, Canada and China are the worlds leading growers of biotech crops. More than half of Chinas cotton crop, for example, is now genetically modified. But there are doubts about how far the expansion can go, with questions lingering on Chinas commitment to GM crops and whether famine-hit Third World nations really want GM food aid .International environment group Greenpeace broadly agreed with the likely rise in global plantings, but said they would continue to be dominated by just a handful of countries.
3. FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) & NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)
Oppose the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) - Recently Released Text Falls Short on Environment (a number of groups including Sierra Club), February 17, 2004
Dear Member of Congress: On behalf of our millions of members, we are writing to express our opposition to the recently released text of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The agreement would allow foreign investors to challenge hard-won environmental laws and regulations, and fails to include adequate measures to ensure environmental improvement throughout Central America and the United States.
Harmful Anti-Environmental Suits. CAFTAs investor rules would undermine U.S. and Central American environmental standards by allowing foreign investors to challenge legitimate laws and regulations before international tribunals, bypassing domestic courts.
SECRET DEAL BREAKS TRAIL FOR FTAA?
Canadian Council for International Co-operation Press Release, February 20, 2004
For two years, Canada has been negotiating a major trade deal; virtually in secret. The lives and livelihoods of millions of people across Central America are at stake in talks this week about the Canada-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CA4FTA). Few Canadians are aware of the existence of this behind-the-scenes bargain. The CA4FTA sets out terms of liberalized commerce between Canada and Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. Canadas actual trade with these nations is small, but the symbolism of the deal is significant. This deal is a building block for the much disputed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Unlike the CA4FTA negotiations, there has been much public debate around the FTAA. So much so that the negotiations are stalling. Now, the CA4FTA, and other small trade deals, are being used to make a hemispheric agreement by stealth isolating countries by making trade deals in clusters.
CONTROVERSIAL MIAMI ORDINANCE SET FOR REPEAL
Protest law headed toward repeal: Miami commissioners show unease with an ordinance aimed at FTAA protesters and will likely repeal it March 11, Miami Herald, CAROLYN SALAZAR, February 27, 2004
Miami commissioners took the first step late Thursday to repeal a stringent ordinance limiting what items protesters can bring to demonstrations. The ordinance, passed just a week before Novembers Free Trade of the Americas talks in Miami, had been touted by police as a way to protect the public against violent protests. But Thursday night, even commissioners admitted the ordinance had one intention. We would be kidding ourselves if we said that without the [Free Trade Area of the Americas] this law would have been passed, said Commissioner Tomás Regalado, who wants his own ordinance repealed.
ITS UP TO BRAZIL, US OFFICIAL SAYS OF FTAA
Miami Herald, by Jane Bussey, February 27, 2004
A senior U.S. trade official placed the burden of success or failure of the next stage in regional free-trade talks on the shoulders of Brazil and its South American trading partners Thursday. Its really up to Brazil, said Christopher A. Padilla, assistant U.S. trade representative for intergovernmental affairs and public liaison. But Padilla, who delivered the keynote address at a Latin American conference sponsored by the Council of the Americas in Coral Gables, predicted tough going when negotiators for the Free Trade Area of the Americas next meet, in Puebla, Mexico, on March 17, 18 and 19 .The last negotiating session concluded on Feb. 6 in a deadlock between the United States and Brazil, which took the lead for its Mercosur neighbors of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
BRAZILS AGRIBUSINESS LOBBY WORRIED AT PROSPECT OF WEAK FTAA
English IPS News, by Mario Osava, February 16, 2004
Brazils powerful agribusiness industry is not pleased with the prospect of a weak Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) or the possible failure to reach the January 2005 deadline for completion of the deal. But the growing possibility that negotiations will come up with a non-FTAA, not even an FTAA Lite, is not only the fault of the United States, but also a result of Brazils failure to offer anything in exchange for greater access to the U.S. market, Gilman Rodrigues, chairman of the National Confederation of Agriculture and Stockbreedings Foreign Trade Commission (CNA), told IPS. However, leading industrialist Osvaldo Douat sees things in a different light, blaming the hurdles that the FTAA talks have run up against on Washingtons refusal to open the U.S. market to agricultural imports or to reduce subsidies to U.S. farmers.
NOTES FROM MIAMI ENVIRONMENTAL SIDE-MEETING
2003 FTAA Ministerial Meeting: Americas Trade and Sustainable Development Forum
The Center for International Sustainable Development Law prepared a report - at the request of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade- on the Americas Trade and Sustainable Development Forum (ATSDF), a civil society event that took place on the margins of the 8th FTAA Ministerial Meeting in Miami (November 2003).
ALASKANS CONSULTED ON LINDANE ACTION PLAN
CEC Press Release, February 12, 2004
Participants at the Alaska Forum on the Environment in Anchorage, Alaska, heard from international experts today about a toxic chemicallindanethat may adversely affect the development of children and is being found in increasing quantities in the Arctic.
The information was delivered at a public consultation meeting organized by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), a trinational organization charged by the governments of Canada, Mexico and the United States to develop a proposed North American action plan to deal with the dangerous chemicalused as a pesticide and treatment for lice and scabiesand other hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCH).
CONSULTATION ON NORTH AMERICAN AIR
CEC, Call for public comments: Long-term Strategic Framework for Air-related Activities of the CEC, February 23, 2004
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) has released for public comment the Draft North American Air Working Group Long-term Strategic Framework for Air-related Activities of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. The strategic framework is intended to provide guidance to the CEC Council and Secretariat for carrying out mutually beneficial air-related activities. It aims to promote greater understanding and effectiveness of CEC air-related activities and of the air quality programs in the three countries, with an emphasis on coordination, and synergy across CEC air activities.
MAINE LAWMAKERS CONSIDER WAYS TO LESSEN NAFTAS IMPACT ON STATE
Blethen Maine Newspapers, ELBERT AULL, February 28, 2004
Lawmakers consider ways to lessen NAFTAs impact on state
A bipartisan group of lawmakers said Friday the state must pass legislation to protect Maine businesses from further job losses linked to international trade agreements even if such action results in lawsuits from foreign businesses. The groups comments came just before a public hearing on the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on Maine, where lawmakers learned the unpopular agreement has helped diversify the states economy but has led to a net loss of jobs over the past 10 years and a trade deficit with Canada and Mexico that reached $874 million in 2002.
Environment looms as major security threat, Reuters, March 1, 2004
U.S. President George W. Bush may feel al Qaeda is the mother of all threats but a growing number of analysts and policy makers say Mother Nature could unleash bigger and scarier security concerns .Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said this month that global warming posed a greater long-term threat to humanity than terrorism because it could force hundreds of millions from their homes and trigger an economic catastrophe.
CABINET CALLED DIVIDED OVER BC OFFSHORE
37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION, February 20, 2004
Mr. Andy Burton (Skeena, CPC): However the senior minister for B.C., Canadas environment minister, is currently forging ahead with a plan to create Scott Island marine wildlife area, an area of up to 2.7 million hectares, which would effectively prohibit oil and gas exploration in much of the Queen Charlotte basin, an area of great exploration potential. The natural resources minister is supportive of the west coast oil and gas possibilities. Clearly the environment minister is not. It is unacceptable for a divided federal cabinet to waffle on an issue as important as offshore oil and gas development is to the future of British Columbia.
BUSH OIL PLAN ILLEGAL
Plan violates federal environmental laws, Earthjustice Press Release, February 17, 2004
In an effort to restore a balance between development and wildlife protection in Alaskas western Arctic, conservation groups announced today a lawsuit challenging a plan to open up the entire northwest portion of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to oil and gas leasing. The groups contend the January 22, 2004, decision to open 100 percent of the 8.8-million-acre northwest portion of the reserve fails to permanently protect any of the regions most important wildlife habitat or hunting and fishing grounds.
DEAL STRUCK TO SLOW GLOBAL SPECIES LOSS
Reuters, February 23, 2004
Rich and poor countries struck a draft deal to slow the loss of plant and animal species, agreeing to speed work on creating protected areas and rewarding developing states for their natural assets. Theres an agreement now, Hans Hoogeven, one of the main officials chairing the U.N. talks on global species variety, or biodiversity, told Reuters.
He said a core group of countries reached a compromise on a range of issues including indigenous peoples rights, guidelines for creating protected areas, and governance of access to genetic resources and the sharing of any ensuing wealth. But the deal, which also detailed plans to monitor progress made under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), still lacked final clearance from all countries at a full meeting that ran past midnight into early Saturday.
GUIDE TO SAFE FISH TO EAT
Fish and Tips: Get the word on seafood thats safe to consume, By Mindy Pennybacker and P. W. McRandle, The Green Guide, February 24, 2004
The dish on fish. Its been a winter of bad news for seafood lovers. A joint draft fish advisory from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. EPA added tuna Americas second-most popular seafood after shrimp to its list of mercury-containing fish that should be restricted in the diets of pregnant women and young children. A separate new study found unhealthy pollutants in far higher amounts in farmed salmon than in their wild kin. And, as reported in the February issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, Great Lakes sport-caught fish contain PCBs, DDT, and PBDEs, though the study did not show a link between their consumption and rising breast cancer rates.
Having a tough time keeping all these grim reports straight? Heres an update on toxins to avoid, fish that contain them, and fish that are safer to eat.
WWF CALLS ON RETAILERS TO BOYCOTT UNSUSTAINABLY LOGGED PRODUCTS
WWF Calls on U.S. Retailers to Demand Paper Giant APP Stop Unsustainable Logging, World Wildlife Fund Press Release, FEBRUARY 20, 2004
World Wildlife Fund today called on U.S. retail customers of Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the worlds largest paper companies, to demand that the company stop unsustainable logging operations. APP and its affiliates in Indonesia are clearcutting one of the worlds most biodiverse and threatened forests, WWF said .Some of APPs U.S. retail customers, including Office Depot (NYSE: ODP) and Staples Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS), have supported WWFs negotiations with APP.
POPs TREATY SET TO COME INTO FORCE MAY 17
Persistent Organic Pollutants treaty achieves fiftieth ratification; Stockholm POPs Convention set to enter into force 17 May 2004, CIEL Press Release, February 17, 2004
After years of effort by governments, indigenous organizations, and environment and health groups throughout the world, a milestone in international chemicals management was reached this week when France became the fiftieth country to ratify the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPS). This landmark treaty addresses an entire class of some of the most dangerous synthetic chemicals known, said CIEL Senior Attorney Glenn Wiser. When it enters into force on May 17, the Convention will ban or severely restrict the production and use of 12 of the worst POPs, and it will establish a multilateral, science-based process for identifying and adding other chemicals with POPs characteristics to the treaty.
NAIROBI LAKE, RIVERS FACE EXTINCTION
The East African Standard (Nairobi), by Paul Jimbo, February 27, 2004
A major lake and two rivers in Rift Valley are drying up due to human encroachment on their water catchment areas. The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) director Arthur Mukolwe said Lake Nakuru and rivers Njoro and Mara will become extinct if the current severe drought and interference with their sources continue. He said serious conservation measures needed to be taken immediately .There is also a massive drop in the population of flamingoes at the resource, from 2.6 million birds to the current of 800,000, hence impacting negatively on tourism.
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR BHOPAL VICTIMS
International Day of Action Calls on Government of India to Aid Victims of Bhopal Disaster, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal Press Release, FEBRUARY 24, 2004
Today, in an international day of action, students and concerned citizens delivered petitions, made phone calls, and met with leading officials from the Indian government, including its President, to demand that it release $300 million in compensation money to the survivors of the Bhopal disaster, and supply them with safe drinking water. The day of action was organized by Students for Bhopal, a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, to protest decades of governmental inaction.
GHANA: PRIVATIZED WATER SHOULD AT LEAST FLOW FROM THE TAPS
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, February 25, 2004
In Teshie, an old fishing village that is now a suburb of the Ghanaian capital Accra, residents buy water by the bucket from private vendors by because their taps have been dry for five years. They are fed up with the situation and have threatened not to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections due in December unless the government does something to resolve the crisis .President John Kufuor, who is seeking re-election for a second term, has controversially decided to tackle the chronic water shortage afflicting Teshie and many other towns across Ghana, by bringing in the private sector to provide much-needed investment.
OIL AND GAS OPPORTUNITY SHOULD BE CONSIDERED BEFORE MARINE PROTECTED AREA: MP
37th PARLIAMENT, 3rd SESSION, February 27, 2004
Mr. Andy Burton (Skeena, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Bill C-10, pertaining to marine conservation areas, calls for a mineral exploration review assessment prior to establishment of any new areas This process must be adhered to, otherwise west coast oil and gas development potential will be seriously jeopardized. Will the environment minister meet this legal obligation as it pertains to his hurry up, Scott Island marine wildlife area proposal? Hon. Serge Marcil (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, Lib.): Mr. Speaker these are all very sensitive issues of which the minister is keenly aware.
OIL COMPANIES TO START TALKS ON RETURN TO LIBYA
Reuters, February 27, 2004
U.S. oil companies said yesterday they are planning to negotiate their return to energy-rich Libya after the White House lifted some sanctions on the North African country. The talks are the first step in the reentry of oil firms Marathon Oil Co., Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum, which produced more than a million barrels per day there before U.S. sanctions forced them to withdraw in 1986.
NOTES FOR AN ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE JIM PETERSON, MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE, AT THE CONFERENCE ON WTO SERVICES, February 27, 2004
Getting trade strategy right in large part means getting the U.S. agenda right, since over 81.6 percent of total Canadian exports go to the U.S. and 69.9 percent of our imports come from our neighbour to the south. Thats $1.9 billion in trade every day. So keeping the border open, while meeting American security concerns, must be our number one priority .But although NAFTA celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, we are constantly striving to improve it. There are currently 30 working groups, including eight on agriculture, looking at ways to further reduce barriers and eliminate disputes .On the bilateral front, we have successfully negotiated free trade agreements with Chile, Israel and Costa Rica. And we are pursuing several new initiatives, including negotiations with Singapore and the Central America Four nations, as well as looking at market fits with CARICOM, the Dominican Republic and the Andean Community. Next month, I am confident we will sign a framework for a Trade and Investment Enhancement Agreement (TIEA) with the European Union at the Canada-EU Summit in Ottawa .But the WTO is and must remain the cornerstone of Canadas trade policy.
US BUSH ADMINISTRATION ABANDONS LANDMINE MAN
Human Rights WatchPress Release, FEBRUARY 27, 2004 The Bush Administrations reversal of a ten- year policy to eliminate all antipersonnel landmines puts the United States in near total isolation in the global effort to ban mines, Human Rights Watch said today. Today the Pentagon announces the outcome of its two and one-half year review of U.S. policy on all landmines. This new landmine policy is not just a gigantic step backward for the United States, it is a complete about-face, said Stephen Goose, executive director of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch. While the rest of the world is rushing to embrace an immediate and comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines, the Bush administration has decided to cling to the weapon in perpetuity.
CDA ANNOUNCES TARIFF PROGRAM TO BENEFIT DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
Minister of State Announces Extension of Tariff Programs Benefiting Developing Nations, Finance Canada Press Release, February 24, 2004
Minister of State (Financial Institutions) Denis Paradis, on behalf of Minister of Finance Ralph Goodale, today introduced legislation that would extend for a further 10 years two tariff programs: the General Preferential Tariff (GPT) and Least Developed Country Tariff (LDCT).
AFRICAS COMMODITY CRISIS
Oxfam Backs UNCTAD Call to Action on Africas Commodity Crisis, Oxfam International PRESS RELEASE, February 26, 2004
Africa is dangerously over-dependent on a handful of key commodities, including sugar, coffee and cotton, and is missing out on potential gains from world trade, according to a new report released today by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The report, Economic Development in Africa: Trade Performance and Commodity Dependence, has been hailed by Oxfam as important and timely. Speaking at an UNCTAD/Oxfam press conference in London, Penny Fowler, trade policy advisor at Oxfam said: The commodities crisis is one of the key causes of poverty in Africa and has been off the political agenda for too long. Action by the international community is urgently needed.
DEVELOPED WORLDS BARRIERS TO AFRICAS GROWTH
Non-Tariff Barriers Hinder Africas Growth - Minister, The Monitor (Kampala), by Ali M. Ssenkabirwa, February 27, 2004
Non-tariff barriers to trade are limiting Africas role in global trade, Minister Richard Nduhuura has said. Mr Nduhuura, minister of State for Trade, attributes technical and sanitary requirements on African exports by the European Union and the U.S. as limitations to the volume of trade from Africa. His comments were contained in a speech read for him by Mr Joseph Kitamirike, commissioner for industry and technology, at a three-day workshop on capacity building in food exports, at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, yesterday.
US - SOUTH AFRICAN FREE TRADE DEAL DISCUSSED
Accord Could Result in Huge Economic Boost, New Era (Windhoek), Walvis Bay,
February 27, 2004
Southern African Customs Union Free Trade Agreement (SACU FTA) will be historic for the United States as it will be the first free trade agreement with countries in sub-Saharan Africa, while it will also be the first free trade agreement negotiated by Sacu as a whole. This was the view expressed by the US chief negotiator, Florizelle Liser, at the opening of the US-SACU FTA fourth round of negotiations in Walvis Bay this week.
The agreement is expected to result in substantive trade, investment and growth for both the US and Sacu. It will be important that the US-SACU FTA be a world-class agreement that sets up a strong framework for substantial trade and economic development - an agreement that serves as a model for other future free trade agreements, Liser said.
COMMUNAL LAND RIGHTS BILL: SOUTH AFRICA
NCOP Adopts Communal Land Rights Bill, BuaNews (Pretoria), by Karen Pretorius, February 27, 2004
The National Council of Provinces has adopted the Communal Land Rights Bill, which seeks to provide security of tenure by transferring communal land to communities. Speaking during a debate yesterday, Agriculture and Land Affairs Minister Thoko Didiza said the legislation Bill represented nine years of research, policy formulation, consultation and drafting. The owners of such land in communal areas will have full ownership of their rights in land recognised by law through a title deed, the minister said .Minister Didiza explained that the Communal Land Rights recognised and protected the rights of women. The rights extend to the role that women will play in the administrative structures of such land.
BLAIR LAUNCHES AFRICA COMMISSION
BBC News, February 26, 2004
Tony Blair is to set up a commission for Africa which will look at ways to resolve the continents major problems. The prime minister said it would look at economic issues, education, conflict resolution, health, the environment, HIV/Aids and governance.
It follows a suggestion from rock star and Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof .Africa is the only continent to have grown poorer in the last 25 years, Mr Blair told his monthly press conference in London. Its share of world trade has halved in a generation and it receives less than 1% of direct foreign investment. Forty-four million children do not go to school, millions die through famine or disease or conflict and Africa risks being left even further behind.
AFRICAS DEBT: WHO OWES WHOM
American Friends Service Committee (Philadelphia), February 5, 2004
Africa is center stage in the struggle for human and economic rights. It is home to the worlds gravest health crises- including the HIV/AIDS pandemic and chronic famine. Even though Africa has only 5 percent of the developing worlds income, it carries about two thirds of the debt - over $300 billion. Because of this, the average African country spends three times more of its scarce resources on repaying debt than it does on providing basic services. In addressing Africas struggle for relief from its onerous external debt, advocates of global justice have raised a critical question: Who owes whom? It is unacceptable to spend more on debt servicing to wealthy nations and institutions than on basic social services when millions of people lack access to primary education, preventative health care, adequate food and safe drinking water Countess said. It is not just morally wrong, it is also poor economics.
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.