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Energy subsidies distorting trade and harming the environment Stop harmful fishing subsidies WTO focuses on trade in forest products

25 March 1999 - U.S. $300 billion in energy subsidies distorting trade and harming the environment. Claus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said UNEP is ready, willing and able to strengthen collaboration with WTO.

Toepfer said UNEP will be gathering essential data on the environmental consequences of international economic policies. He said that, "Many countries have identified, for example, environmental and trade benefits of removing price-distorting subsidies. The environmental costs of these distortions are now known to be staggering."

He added that, experts estimate that these inefficient policies cost society over US$20 billion dollars in fishing subsidies; over $300 billion in energy subsidies and over $350 billion in agricultural subsidies."

The energy subsidies alone result in excessive energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and result in major environmental problems ranging from oil spills to gas emissions from well head extractions.

The Gallon Environment newsletter
Montreal, Canada



Stop harmful fishing subsidies

Subsidizing fishing may be good momentarily for certain regions. But in the long run, the subsidies harm the economy and deplete the fisheries.

Canada found this out when its government subsidies resulted in the collapse of cod fisheries on the Atlantic Coast.

Now the United States joined by Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and the Philippines, proposed a curb on fishing subsidies at an WTO environmental meeting in Geneva sponsored by the 134-nation World Trade Organization.

A recent World Bank study estimated government subsidies to promote fishing totaled $11 billion to $20 billion annually. Opponents say such subsidies distort trade by reducing fishing costs and placing downward pressure on world seafood prices at a time of growing shortages of some types of fish.

"Fisheries stocks are in decline worldwide", said Terry Garcia, assistant commerce secretary for oceans and atmosphere. "Put simply, too many boats are chasing too few fish."

Eliminating government subsidies would help reduce the problem of overfishing worldwide, he said.

U.S. Source, "Seeks Fishing Subsidies Curb", by Martin Crutsinger, AP Economics Writer.

Full story can be seen at website



WTO focuses on trade in forest products

The World Trade Organization (WTO) trade ministers will meet in Seattle at the WTO's Third Ministerial, November 30 to December 3, 1999, where they plan to introduce a sweeping new agenda that may result in the increased worldwide consumption of wood products. It may open up native forests to logging and could result in weakening environmental protections, and open the door to invasive species.

The most urgent initiative is a new forest products agreement that U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky told Congress is a top negotiating priority. A number of other agenda items could have even greater impacts on forests. Advisors for the proposed new positions are executives from Weyerhaeuser, Boise Cascade, International Paper, and Georgia-Pacific. No one representing protections for forests or workers is at the table.

The new proposal by the U.S. and supported by Canada, focuses on reducing what the forest industry considers "barriers to trade." The result will be cost reductions for wood products consumers, stimulating demand and intensifying logging.

While the current scope of talks covers only tariffs (import taxes), negotiations are expected to introduce "non-tariffs," which can refer to anything, even environmental laws.

The U.S., Canada, and other big exporters want total elimination of tariffs on wood products worldwide, particularly in the enormous Japanese and Korean markets.

This report was prepared by Victor Menotti, Director of the IFG Environment Program. Contact him at ph. 415-771-3394.
Also contact Phil Knight, Native Forest Network, Yellowstone Branch, Last Refuge Campaign, Gondwana Forest Sanctuary,
PO Box 6151, Bozeman, Montana
59771-6151 ph. (406) 586- 3885,

Thursday 25 Mar 1999
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