WTO-Cancun: Corporate Giants Hold Gov't Strin

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Posted by Sadie from D006216.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu ( on Thursday, August 28, 2003 at 12:25PM :

August 28, 2003
Inter Press Service, via commondreams.org
WTO-Cancun: Corporate Giants Hold Gov't Strings
by Sanjay Suri

LONDON, Aug 28 - A new report reveals the kind of moves multinational giants have been making to control decisions at the World Trade Organization ministerial summit in Cancun next month.

The U.S. pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer spent 3.4 million dollars in 2000 to lobby the government. Pharmacia, which later merged with Pfizer spent 3.7 million dollars. As a result, the U.S. policy on TRIPS bears a ”striking similarity to the wishes of the industry lobby groups,” the FOEI report says.

The report by Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) details several instances where giant corporations have moved to control government decisions, particularly in the United States and the European Union (EU).

”The EU and the United States must kick off the habit of listening so closely to large corporations,” FOEI chief executive officer Olivier Hoedeman told IPS from the group's offices at Amsterdam. ”The report compiles a number of very disturbing examples of what has gone wrong, and what can go wrong unless the influence of corporations over the WTO is halted somehow.”

FOEI plans to campaign strongly at Cancun in Mexico during the WTO ministers meeting September 10-14 to check the power of corporations over WTO policy decisions that could become binding on governments.

”Behind the rhetoric about 'rules-based trade', 'liberalization' and the 'Doha Development Round', the reality is that the WTO's trade and investment rules are consistently being shaped around the interests of transnational corporations, consolidating their global expansion and removing any remaining obstacles,” says the report 'Business rules in the WTO: Who pays the price?' released in London Thursday.

The report is presented as a guide for action by citizens. ”A consistent and focused activist challenge to corporate-led trade policies is the only hope for making trade and investment serve people and the environment,” FOEI says in the report.

The report looks at the impact of corporations on decisions in four key areas: food, health and environmental standards, access to essential medicines, control over foreign investment and access to essential services.

Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau Federation have been pressuring the U.S. government to use the WTO to force genetically modified (GM) food onto a hostile EU consumer market, the report says.

In 2000 Monsanto, the U.S. firm taking the lead in development of GM foods, spent more than two million dollars on lobbying the U.S. government, the report says. This gave the company direct access to officials and negotiators. The company now has representation on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade, and the official Biotech Advisory Panel.

The case for GM foods is being promoted also by the American Farm Bureau Federation, ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the most powerful organizations in Washington, the report says.

The FOEI report warns of the danger to environmental protection during negotiations at Cancun. Lobby groups want WTO rules to preside over Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), and there is ”every likelihood that WTO will prevail,” the report says. Once trade measures are included in a MEA, the right of governments to rule in favor of the environment would be restricted.

The report points out that the 38 major industry lobby groups that make up the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC) of the OECD are supporting the WTO on MEAs.

The report includes further warnings on the impact on medicines from developments on the Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A 20-year patent protection period makes drugs inaccessible to the poorest.

Agreement was reached at the last WTO ministerial meeting in Doha, Qatar, in 2001 to override patents in poor countries. There were important agreements reached on treatment for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, but other diseases remain uncovered.

The report points to the ”enormous influence of drug companies.” The combined worth of the world's top five drug companies is twice the combined gross national income (GNI) of all of sub-Saharan Africa, the report points out.

The U.S. pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer spent 3.4 million dollars in 2000 to lobby the government. Pharmacia, which later merged with Pfizer spent 3.7 million dollars. As a result, the U.S. policy on TRIPS bears a ”striking similarity to the wishes of the industry lobby groups,” the FOEI report says.

The report points out that the tobacco giant Philip Morris is strongly backing moves to bring in a multilateral investment agreement that could among other things give corporations the right to sue states directly.

With business spread over 148 countries, Philip Morris is campaigning for a WTO investment agreement through the United States Council of International Business, and the U.S. chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), a key advocate of a WTO investment agreement. Such an agreement would give corporations deep inroads into the markets of developing countries.

That 10 million lives a year will be lost due to smoking by 2030 is another matter, the report says.

Water giants including Suez and Vivendi are seeking to promote further private sector involvement in water industries and privatizations.”Suez's extensive involvement in corporate lobby groups provides it with excellent access to key global decision makers,” the report says.

Among the lobby groups it is acting through are the International Chamber of Commerce, the transatlantic Business Dialogue, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the European Roundtable for Industrialists.

© 2003 Inter Press Service - IPS


-- Sadie
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