The World Trade Organisation organised two days of forum debates on the WTO's role in the future. Further down are the transcripts of
at the initial high level plenary panel discussion of 24 September 2008 about:
Ms. Fiona Harvey - Environment Correspondent, Financial Times
Participants were welcomed to the conference by these words:This year's Forum - "Trading into the Future" - is designed to provide a unique opportunity for governments, non-governmental organizations, academics, businesses, and students to come together to discuss how the trading system may best reflect the future needs and aspirations of the international community. This year's Forum, which takes place against a background of financial instability, high oil and food prices, will ask: "how can the trading system be taken into the future?" In doing so, we expect to trigger a frank and open debate on the role and responsibility of the multilateral trading system on complex issues such as the food crisis, financial markets, climate change, human rights, and electronic commerce, to mention but a few topics.
Civil society is essential to the work of the WTO, and your participation this year, as in all previous years, is invaluable. I look forward to your active engagement. It is to you that the WTO must be held accountable.
(Source: WTO web site.)
Also see: Links:
Mutual Supportiveness of Trade, Climate Change and Development Objectives and PoliciesPart transcript from the forum Audio. [With added scientific comments (rejoinders) that the forum format did not allow to be advanced.] Letter to Mr Pascal Lamy
Thank you very much. I'm Helmut Lubbers. I work for ecoglobe, Ecology Discovery Foundation. I'm absolutely delighted to see Ms Harvey here, because she describes in much detail how economic growth everywhere, always, in every country leads to more pressure on the environment. And I believe that here in this forum, what we should actually discuss, instead of climate change, is the fact that the outspoken rationale for free trade is the development of the economy - economic growth. And I believe that this is the wrong thing to do. We should discuss about how we should reduce our economies and contract our resource use. Because, the fact is that we were 2.5 billion people in 1950. We are 6.7 billion now and if it continues as it does we would be 9 billion or 8.5 billion by 2050.
Then, on the other hand, we have the issue of the end of fossil fuels. And at the end of fossil fuels - some people are saying that we have already achieved, reached the plateau of production, of extraction of oil.
Then agricultural production and international trade and also the production of the goods and services that we need for basic survival will drop enourmously. I think we should prepare for that issue and then the issue of climate change will go to the back and the issue of mere survival will come to the fore.
My question is actually, how is it possible that intelligent people still believe that this earth is flat and that we could continue to keep growing, growing until we have no resources left and then - where will we end?
Because we are actually living on the accumulated resources in the earth that are being depleted irreversibly. So that's my question. How can you believe that we can continue to grow?
Mr Lamy is confounding issues. Both economic expansion (growth) and population growth are increasing the depletion rates of non-renewable resources, such as land, water, minerals, forests, and a normal climate.
Mr Lamy said: "No". But the factual reality is that the planet does not care about the aspirations of people. Growth is always material, whatever clever theorizers in the discipline of economics may purport. A higher GDP means more stuff used and depleted. The end of non-renewable resources means the collapse of humanity in wars for the last crumbs of bread and the last drops of drinkable water - here and in the developing countries. ]
Mr Pascal Lamy: "Yes. I believe this is possible, provided market capitalism - which is whether we like it or not the system under which we live - internalises these constraints. You know markets work with prices. They work with costs, profits, with allocation of capital. If you look at the way "cap and trade" for instance has worked not that bad for a start. I am not saying absolutely great and there is no problem. But using market mechanisms in order to internalise these constraints and notably through the price of energy I think is absolutely crucial. Now, I am not saying it's the only solution. And there are areas where market systems are not efficient and we need to go the regulatory side. Which is by the way what we do most of the time in WTO. Many people believe we are in the business of deregulation. The reality. We are in the business of regulation, look at subsidies, barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary standards and so on. The option is there. But I believe that this planet still has a huge problem of development and that we need economic growth to reduce poverty. Not in any condition, yes, we have to factor in this big systemic risk we have with the greenhouse gases. I think tackling it is doable."
Mr Pascal Lamy: "It would help a lot. And by the way, on the logic of these questions of the border measure adjustments, I sometimes have a difficulty of understanding, how could it be that you have... Take cap and trade, for instance. How is it that you have nationally fair system of allocating emission permits and you cannot have an internationally fair system for the allocation of permits. How is it that the problems of competitiveness raise from the fact that you have a fair system at home but you could not find a fair system elsewhere? I mean f you have a fair system at home a far system is doable and there is not such a sort of discrepancy between the global economy and the domestic economies today. So I think it's something that really needs to be brought forward. "
Worst is the belief that economic growth could be "environmentally sustainable".
Growth increases the resource depletion rates and the emission rates of greenhouse gases. All so-called "immaterial", "green", "different" or other growths are either non-existent or they simply do the same under a different name.
Letter sent to Mr Pascal Lamy: