NGO Protest before EFTA Ministerial Meeting in Vaduz/Liechtenstein

Zurich, 28.06.2007 - “No world trade that only benefits the rich” is being called for by 150 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) before the trade minister’s meeting of the EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) on June 28th in Vaduz. At the same time, the global NGO alliance has sent open letters to protest against planned bilateral free-trade agreements with developing countries such as Colombia, India, Indonesia and Peru.

EFTA trade ministers want to conclude as soon as possible bilateral free-trade agreements with “economically attractive” developing and emerging nations such as Colombia, India, Indonesia and Peru. 150 civil society organizations are protesting in open letters. If existing EFTA agreements with developing countries are any indication, the planned agreements are likely to exceed WTO requirements: The developing countries will be held to even more rigorous opening of their markets; protective regulations and tariffs will be dismantled; and the countries will be obligated to adopt strong patent protection. One hundred fifty NGOs from Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland the affected southern countries and international NGOs are taking part in the protest.

Such bilateral agreements would seriously limit the flexibility of these developing countries. Specifically, the NGO alliance points out the following consequences:

  • The production of affordable medicines for the poor will be impeded.
  • Through the dismantling of tariffs for industrial goods and the broad opening of the service sector, the industries of these countries will have difficulty withstanding global competition.

Moreover, EFTA’s irresponsible and inconsiderate approach presents the additional risk that the WTO will broaden its demands vis-à-vis developing and emerging countries. In order to curb these and further bilateral free-trade agreements, international NGOs declare solidarity with their counterparts in the affected countries.