S2B Letter to Martin Ríman, EU President

Original Publication Date: 
1 March, 2009
S2B LetterFinal160209.pdf72.37 KB

The Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B) would like to welcome you in the EU Presidency. We hope
that we will be able to build a constructive dialogue around the EU trade policy – in the direction of
a trade policy that puts people and the environment first.
The S2B Network is a coalition of European civil society organisations that challenges the
democratic deficit in the EU decision making process on trade issues and promotes a sustainable,
social and democratic accountable trade system. The S2B membership is diverse and located
throughout Europe; it includes development, environment, human rights, women and farmers
organisations, trade unions, various social movements as well as research institutes and has built
strong partnerships with networks of social actors in the South.
Since 1999, S2B has been working to democratise the EU’s trade agenda through revealing the
dominant influence the corporate sector has on the EU’s trade agenda and its negative impacts in
Europe and the Global South, especially on small-scale farmers, women, rural populations and small
and medium enterprises.
S2B members are deeply concerned about the EU Trade strategy as described in the EC
communication Global Europe: Competing in the World. With its emphasis on meeting the EU
business interests at the cost of socio-economic rights, sustainable development and gender
equality objectives and the fight against inequality at local as well as at global level, the Global
Europe strategy threatens many of the world’s poorer communities.
Our concerns have been reinforced in the context of the multiple crisis (food, financial, energy,
economic, climate). These crisis is to a large degree systemic and is deeply related to the
liberalisation and deregulation policies of the last decades.
The financial crisis follows the systematic deregulation of the financial markets, which allowed
massive speculation; and this financial liberalisation is reinforced through the EU’s Free Trade
Agreements (such as the CARIFORUM EPA) and the EU’s offensive position at the WTO in the area
of financial services negotiations.
The financial crisis, however, results not only from financial deregulation, but also from too fast and
universal trade liberalization.
Progressive global trade liberalization has over past three decades led some important countries to
adopt aggressive export-oriented models backed by undervalued currency.
Accumulation of foreign reserves and huge capital surpluses helped these countries both to succeed
in highly competitive global markets and to preserve their domestic financial stability.
But without adequate international exchange rate and capital flows management, these capital
surpluses have caused huge global imbalances, including the global financial and economic crisis of
The global food price crisis, too, has one of its roots in the destruction of small-scale farming in the
South as a consequence of excessive market opening, export orientation and the abolition of
agricultural support. Cheap global capital without proper regulation also greatly facilitated
speculative investments in commodities causing high and volatile oil and food prices for many poor
people around the world.
The climate crisis, finally, will surely not be solved by more excessive transportation of goods, more
unsustainable and debt-based consumption and reduced policy space, which would be the
consequence of more stringent “free trade” rules as called for by the EU leaders.
In the context of these unfolding crises we are extremely concerned about the commitment of the
EU to continue with “business-as-usual” in EU trade policies. We believe that concluding the WTO’s
Doha Round and the bilateral and regional FTAs, in the way they are conceived of now, is the wrong
approach. While resorting to large-scale protectionisms would certainly deepen the current
economic crisis today, further liberalization across the board might bring more of costlier financial,
fuel and food crises in the future
S2B believes a radically different approach, espousing selective liberalization and right to protect, is
needed to ensure that EU trade and investment agreements do not have a negative impact on the
prospects of developing countries, on efforts to save the climate or on the European social model.
Only smart trade policies that work for the poorest of the world will also ensure a stable, just,
sustainable and prosperous world for all. It is time for a new and updated economic system which
reduces inequality, ensures a healthy environment and works to create well-being for all. . Such a
system should include:
· A major recovery plan that puts people and the environment at its heart and in particular
enables countries to better feed, educate and protect their people, invest in low-carbon
development and sustainable decent jobs, and build up their economic resilience and
· Effective regulation of the global financial system, including tax, debt and trade rules
· A set of new and reformed democratic institutions to govern this economic system on global,
regional, national and local level
The upcoming negotiating rounds of the Free Trade Agreements between the EU and its
counterparts (South Korea, India, ASEAN, Andean Community and Central America) must take
these orientations into consideration. This is also the case for the EPAs. Although some interim EPAs
have already been initialled or signed, the door should be kept open for real alternatives and the EU
should refrain from putting pressure on the ACP countries to take binding commitments in services,
intellectual property right or Singapore issues. Instead it should take the commitment to respond
unconditionally and in a flexible way to demands by ACP countries to revise the contentious issues
included in the interim agreements and it should revisit the EU- CARIFORUM EPA in the light of the
current crises.
We also appeal on your leadership to make sure that the EU’s Raw Materials Strategy (which is
currently under consideration by the Council) does not stand in the way of the socio-economic
rights of the people of the South, sustainable management of natural resources, preservation of
fragile ecosystems, resource sovereignty in developing countries and increased resource efficiency
in Europe.
Finally, the EU will play a key role in the next G20 meeting foreseen in London, which aims at
setting up new rules and solid governance structures for the global financial system.
In this framework, useful steps for the Czech Presidency should include the initiative to put the
elimination/defuse of tax havens on the agenda of the upcoming ECOFIN meeting, through a)
extending the European Savings Directive to companies and trusts and b) requiring that the
international accounting standards include Country-to-Country reporting of multinational companies
to reveal profits, losses and taxes paid in each country of their operation.
The Czech Presidency should also take a courageous approach and propose a review of the impact
of financial deregulation commitments made by the EU and EU Member States in the WTO/GATS
and in bilateral and bi-regional free trade agreements and investment treaties. As an immediate
step, the Czech Presidency should put on the Council’s agenda measures to reverse obsolete
restrictions on capital controls in trade and investment agreements and to encourage capital
controls as an effective tool to address financial market volatility.
As S2B, we would actively support your engagement in favour of a European trade and investment
strategy that puts people's needs and environment at its heart.
We are at your disposal to exchange further views on the alternatives we propose and look forward
to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely,
The Seattle to Brussels Network