Statement by Lim Li Lin, Third World Network at High Level Segment of the 8th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity
28 March 2006
[This was at the Panel on Trade and Biodiversity in the ministerial segment of COP8.]
Honourable Ministers, distinguished delegates, we all want trade and environment and biological diversity to be “mutually supportive”. But is this “mutually supportive” of trade or really “mutually supportive” of the balance between environment and trade?
As Environment Ministers, you know better, more than anyone else in your national context how “mutual supportiveness” of trade and environment portfolios really work. All are equal but some are more equal than others.
The WTO secretariat allows the CBD secretariat to participate in the discussions of the Committee on Trade and Environment. This is to be commended but this is not where the real details of the WTO agreements such as the SPS, TBT, Agriculture, NAMA, TRIPS agreements are being negotiated, and these agreements have huge impacts on biodiversity, environment and people.
I hope that the approach by the WTO secretariat is not to keep the CBD people and environment people happy and distracted in policy discussions of “mutual supportiveness” of trade and environment, and not to allow them to engage with the rule making where it really matters.
The title of the civil society forum at the COP 8 is ‘COPTRIX: Welcome to the Real World’. The real world of people, farmers, indigenous peoples, local communities whose environment and livelihoods are negatively impacted by many of the Free Trade Agreements and the WTO agreements. I invite you to attend this forum to hear for yourself, the problems in the real world.
In the Non Agriculture Market Access (NAMA) discussions, if the current WTO negotiations succeed in cutting the tariffs of developing countries drastically, especially in industrial products due to the aggressive demands and pressures of developed countries in the WTO, then the development prospects of developing countries would be diminished, there would be job losses, and closing down of industry. This would end up exacerbating poverty, and many UN reports have shown that this exerts more of a strain on natural resources.
Furthermore, the failure of developing countries to move up the technological ladder due to the lack of industrial development would mean that economic activities remain concentrated and will become more concentrated on resource exploitation, with clear detrimental effects for biodiversity.
Therefore, it is paramount that the current WTO negotiations should conclude in a manner that does not take away the policy space of developing countries to pursue their sustainable and human development objectives. Developed countries in the WTO are trying to do this by forcing developing countries to dramatically slash their tariffs especially in industrial sectors.
In the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, the outstanding TRIPS review to clarify exactly what is patentable and what is not, is being demanded by developing countries like the Africa Group, India and Brazil, but this is continually resisted by the developed countries. This is the clearest link between the WTO agreements and the issues in the CBD.
The CBD recognizes that patents and intellectual property rights can have negative impacts on biological diversity and can run counter to the objectives of the CBD. IPRs on life forms is not only immoral and unethical, it also facilitates biopiracy from developing countries by companies in developed countries.
This is what the access and benefit sharing (ABS) negotiations in the CBD are trying to address. But if the TRIPS regime is not reformed, then the good work that we are trying to do in the CBD is always under threat.
“Mutual supportiveness” is our aim, but it is certainly not the current reality. I urge you to make this your priority at the CBD, at the WTO and at the national levels.