Brussels – March 16th: Campaigners warned today that the European Union’s free market trade policies are savaging poor people and the environment in developing countries staging an action outside a DG Trade conference in Brussels where senior EU figures were discussing the issue of trade with developing countries.
The action, organised by the Seattle to Brussels network used a five-metre inflated savage dog, representing EU trade policy, which was let off its lead by a giant EC business official, attacking victims representing small farmers, small businesses, women and indigenous people from the developing world.
DG Trade is today hosting a conference on EU Trade Policy towards Developing Countries in the Charlemagne Building.
Campaigners criticised the conference as a poor attempt by DG Trade to wrap its dangerous corporate trade agenda in development rhetoric.
Barbara Specht from the women’s network WIDE, a member of the Seattle to Brussels Network said:
“Current trade policies prioritise the interests of profit maximisation over people. The results are trade agreements that eat up development prospects in the South.”
Campaigners also called on Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, to use the upcoming discussion about the external dimension of the EU’s 2020 strategy to push for a u-turn in EU trade policy.
Marc Maes, European Trade Policy Officer of the Belgian NGO-umbrella 11.11.11, said:
“The EU has recently become much more aggressive towards developing countries: it is less inclined to show flexibility; does not hesitate to conclude deals with countries like Colombia that violate human and labour rights and does not bother to let regions fall apart in order to get its way.”
Campaigners were also disappointed by the conference programme, which lacks representatives of those sectors of societies in the South that are most negatively affected by EU trade policy and therefore also most critical of it.
Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and one of the organisers of the action said:
“Small farmers, indigenous and women’s groups across the world are fighting against the destruction of their livelihoods because of EU trade agreements. But their voices won’t be heard during DG Trade’s conference. Instead, BusinessEurope and think tanks are given the floor to promote their anti-development agenda. It’s EU colonialism at its worst.”
This critique was echoed by the international peasant movement La Vía Campesina who co-organised the action.
Javier Sánchez from the European Coordination Via Campesina and farmer in Aragón said:
“The idea that free trade can lead to development is a total fraud. As farmers both in Europe and elsewhere, we oppose the advancement of free trade agreements promoted by the EU. Free trade puts us in situations of unfair competition and only benefits multinationals and large retailers seeking cheaper raw materials regardless of the conditions in which these are produced. If DG Trade consulted the groups most affected, they would realise this was the case.”