WTO rules "will lead to toxic trade"

Environmental groups hit out at world trade body's record on toxics, green purchasing, ecolabels

World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules threaten to undermine consumers' rights to receive information about which products are environmentally friendly as well as governments' abilities to operate green purchasing policies, an international environmentalist network has said in the run-up to world trade talks due to begin in Seattle, the USA, at the end of this month. In a report published today, the Basel Action Network and the Asia-Pacific Environmental Exchange claim that existing rules are already being used to preclude the use of the precautionary principle, which is a formal policy objective in the EU, on the grounds that it conflicts with free trade rules (ENDS Daily 5 October). The rules also "attack the heart" of the fundamental principle of toxics prevention and clean production and "institutionalise the failed concepts of 'pollution control' and 'end-of-pipe waste management,'" according to the report. There is a "real possibility" that they will be used to overturn the Basel convention ban on exporting hazardous waste to developing countries, the report adds. A rigorous implementation of the rules, which is considered highly likely, will eliminate most possibilities for future phase-outs or bans of toxic substances, and limit both market-driven and legislative means to favour products based on life-cycle analyses, such as ecolabels, the report concludes.

Follow Up:
Basel Action Network, tel: +1 206 720 6426. References: "When trade is toxic: the WTO threat to public and planetary life" can be downloaded from the BAN web site.

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