Oxfam calls US-EU proposal ‘old wine, different bottles’

By Xinhua

Bali : Oxfam International, a confederation of 13 organisations dedicated to finding solutions to poverty and injustice, has criticised a US-EU trade proposal at the UN climate change conference here, as “old wine, different bottles”.

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In a press release, Oxfam said the trade ministers’ meeting held on Saturday and Sunday has been “seriously” compromised by the US-EU proposal that uses the climate crisis to push for their trade liberalisation schemes.

This is a double whammy for poor countries, the press release said. Not only are poor people bearing the brunt of climate change caused by industrialised nations, but rich countries are now also seeking to boost their exports by opening up developing countries’ markets.

The EU and US have billed their proposal to eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers on a range of goods and services that can have environmental uses.

“The UN conference on climate change is being used as a pretext to dust off old proposals that haven’t gotten anywhere at the WTO,” said Barry Coates, executive director of Oxfam New Zealand, in Bali Saturday.

“A high priority for action on climate change is support of developing countries to access affordable and clean technology and to develop technology that is most appropriate to the challenges they face. But rich countries have done little to honour their commitments,” he said.

“Rather than taking bold action to provide resources for technology transfer to developing countries, the EU and the US are passing around old wine in new bottles,” said Coates.

The proposal would open up developing country markets to goods that are mainly produced in rich countries, according to the press release.

“The US and EU have repeatedly sought market access in developing countries — including for environmental goods and services — but they have steadfastly refused to reform their own unfair trade practices,” said Coates.

“This proposal could create the impression that the climate change challenge at the WTO can easily be addressed through promoting trade in a select few goods and services,” said Coates.

He called for a new approach from the rich countries in trade negotiations, one that aims to support sound policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and poverty rather than pushing a “mercantilist” approach.

The two-day trade ministers’ meeting on the sidelines of the UN climate change conference aims to focus on contributing to efforts in addressing climate change.

The meeting should discuss how trade policies could contribute to, and not undermine, action on climate change, Oxfam said.