Environment scores two wins and one loss in DohaDoha, Qatar - With environmental issues dominating the closing hours of trade negotiations here, trade ministers from around the world delivered two important advances on critical environmental issues, while also delivering a significant loss, according to WWF, the conservation organization.
Trade ministers took a critical step towards eliminating billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies that drive the depletion of the world's fish stocks. The Doha declaration commits WTO members to negotiate new rules to address subsidies to the fishing industry, and emphasises the environmental orientation of the negotiations.
"The WTO decision to open negotiations on fishing subsidies is very good news for the world's fisheries and for the communities that depend on them," said David Schorr, Director of WWF's Sustainable Commerce Programme. "For the first time, governments have recognized the responsibility of the WTO to do its part in promoting the health of a vital natural resource."
WWF praised the leadership of Iceland and the United States at the head of a supportive 'Friends of Fish' coalition that included, among others, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Peru and the Philippines. WWF also recognized the European Union (EU) and Japan for what it called a 'brave decision' to embrace the talks on fishing subsidies, despite their earlier opposition.
WWF also considers the trade ministers' commitment to clarifying the relationship between multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and WTO rules as a political breakthrough. This decision has the potential to reduce the threat posed by the WTO to developing and implementing international environmental treaties. However, the current text is unclear on how to deal with non-parties to MEAs.
WWF praised the political leadership and determination of the EU to put MEAs and other trade and environmental issues on the WTO agenda. "WTO members, and the EU in particular, now have a major responsibility to ensure these negotiations lead to a positive affirmation of the autonomy of MEAs, and especially on their ability to deploy non-protectionist trade measures. It is important to protect MEAs from WTO challenge," said Mikel Insausti, Trade Coordinator of WWF's European Policy Office.
In a significant setback for the environment however, WTO ministers agreed to expand WTO rules on investment. With investment flows now playing a vital role in shaping the world's environment, the WTO is posed to embrace a failed model of investment regulation, giving only lip service to serious environmental concerns. The decision promises to increase already heated controversy over international investment rules.
Both the wins and losses in Doha today highlighted the critical role of the environment at the heart of debate over the direction of the global economy. While the Doha declaration opens a new chapter in the 'trade and environment' story, the fundamental orientation of the world economic system remains badly off the path to truly sustainable development.
"The results in Doha offer both hope and a clear warning," said Aimee T. Gonzales, WWF's International Senior Policy Advisor. "Governments must address critical environmental and social imbalances if the global economy is to produce a healthy planet."
For further information:
Aimee T. Gonzales, WWF International Senior Policy Advisor: +41 79 692 7973 (Doha)
Mikel Insausti, WWF's European Policy Office Trade Coordinator: +32 2 743 8809 (Brussels)
David Schorr, WWF US, Director Sustainable Commerce Programme: +1 202 236 8259 (Washington)
Angelina Hermans, Press Officer: +32 2 743 8800 (Brussels)