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US Trade Initiatives/Policies

 
  

Project: US Trade Initiatives/Policies

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September 1986-1991: Reagan Administration Forces Asian Countries to Open Markets to US Cigarettes Companies

       The Reagan administration's Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) pressures several countries—under threat of sanctions—to open their markets to American cigarettes: Japan in September 1986, Taiwan in late 1986, and South Korea in May 1988. By 1991, sales of American cigarettes in these new markets are 600 percent higher than they would have otherwise been without US intervention, according to the Boston-based National Bureau of Economic Research. The Bureau also notes that American tobacco companies' cheap prices and sophisticated advertising campaigns increased average cigarette consumption per capita by nearly 10 percent in the targeted countries. Much of the new demand for cigarettes was created among women and young people. [South-North Development Monitor (SUNS), 8/8/2000; Washington Post, 11/17/1996]
People and organizations involved: Reagan administration, Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR)
          

April 1996-1998: Clinton Administration Files Complaint with WTO after Receiving Large Donation from Chiquita

       Within 24 hours of the US Democratic Party receiving a $500,000 “donation” from Chiquita Brands International, the Clinton administration files a complaint with the WTO complaining about the EU's banana trade policy with the Caribbean. [PBS Frontline cited in Alternet, 2/6/2001; Guardian, 3/5/1999] The US is opposed to the European Union's quota system for Caribbean bananas which provides Europe's former island colonies with a guaranteed market. The purpose of the quota system is to protect Caribbean growers from their regional competitors. Banana exporters in Central and South America tend to have lower production costs since they have large-scale, mechanized plantations that are often run by giant US-based corporations. The EU rule was aimed at enabling the countries' economies to grow independently, without dependence on overseas aid. The EU, with 74 percent of its citizens willing to pay more for “fair trade” bananas, stands firm against the US challenge, making only a few small changes and leaving its quota intact. The US responds with punitive tariffs against the EU, forcing the EU to rescind its tariffs. [Global Exchange, 11/15/1999; Oxfam, 3/1998; Guardian, 3/5/1999]
People and organizations involved: Democratic National Committee, Clinton administration, Chiquita Brands International
          

May 1998: US Opposes WHO Resolution to Put Public Health over Commercial Interests

       In Geneva, at the 1998 World Health Assembly, delegates from the US State Department and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA ) threaten to withdraw funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) when members propose including a provision in its resolution on the Revised Drug Strategy that would urge countries “to ensure that public-health interests rather than commercial interests have ‘primacy’ in pharmaceutical and health policies.” As a result of the United States' opposition, the statement is not adopted. The US also opposes a proposal to give the WHO a role in monitoring international trade agreements. [Consumer Project on Technology, 10/16/1998; Wilson, et al., 11/27/1999; Consumer Project on Technology, 5/13/1998]
People and organizations involved: Clinton administration, World Health Organization
          

April 23, 1999: Commission on Human Rights Condemns the Unilateral Use of Economic Sanctions

       The Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 1999/21, condemns the unilateral use of economic sanctions, urging “all States to refrain from adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law and the Charter of the United Nations, in particular those of a coercive nature with extraterritorial effects, which create obstacles to trade relations among States, thus impeding the full realization of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular the right of individuals and peoples to development.” [South-North Development Monitor (SUNS), 12/21/1999 Sources: Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1999/21]
People and organizations involved: Commission on Human Rights
          

January 24-29, 2000: US Oppose Inclusion of GMO's in Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety

       In Montreal, Canada, the Ad Hoc Working Group on Biosafety (BSWG) continues negotiations on the text of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB), the first protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The conference is the last in a series of BSWG discussions that began on February 22, 1999 in Cartagena, Colombia. It is attended by over 750 participants, representing 133 governments, NGOs, industry organizations and the scientific community. The purpose of the protocol is to develop a set of international minimum safety standards for the regulation of trade in genetically engineered organisms (GMOs). The major points of contention during the negotiations relate to (1) the obligations of an exporter to inform importers of shipments containing GMOs, (2) the rights of an importer to reject GMO imports, and (3) whether CBD or World Trade Organization (WTO) regulations have primacy in cases where there is a conflict between the two. The two main negotiating blocks are the “Miami Group” (which includes the GMO-exporting countries of the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay) on one side and the European Union and the Like Minded Group (which includes most developing countries) on the other. The Miami Group had formed earlier in Cartagena in order to prevent genetically modified agricultural commodities from being included within the scope of the Protocol, preferring that their regulation remain solely under the jurisdiction of the WTO. The delegates agree on a final draft during the early morning hours of January 29. [Convention on Biological Diversity website, n.d.; Genewatch, n.d.; Biowatch, n.d.; EAAP News, 8/2000; IISD Linkages, 2/18/2000 Sources: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB)] The Protocol will enter into force on September 11, 2003, ninety days after receiving its 50th ratification. [Convention on Biological Diversity website, n.d.]
Biodiversity Clearing-House - The CPB establishes a “Biodiversity Clearing-House” to facilitate the exchange of information on GMOs and to assist countries in the implementation of the Protocol. [Biowatch, n.d.; Genewatch, n.d. Sources: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB)]

Advanced Informed Agreement (AIA) - The Protocol requires exporters of GMOs to seek permission from the importing country before the GMOs are exported. For most GMO exports, the exporter will be required to follow a set of procedures referred to as the “Advance Informed Agreement” (AIA). However, for GMOs intended for food, feed or processing (LMO-FFPs), and not planting, a different, less rigorous notification system applies. For these types of GMOs the CPB only requires governments to notify the Biodiversity Clearing-House when they have decided to permit the use of a GMO in their own country and to supply certain information about it. This alternative notification system for food, feed, and processing GMOs was a concession negotiated by the GMO-exporting Miami Group. Pharmaceutical GMOs, GMOs-in-transit, and GMOs intended for use in a laboratory, are also subject to fewer, less stringent regulations. [Biowatch, n.d.; Genewatch, n.d. Sources: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB)]

The precautionary principle - The CPB permits countries to restrict or ban a GMO if they believe there is a potential for the GMO to cause adverse affects. Conclusive scientific evidence is not necessary. “Lack of scientific certainty due to insufficient relevant scientific information and knowledge regarding the extent of the potential adverse effects of a living modified organism �.shall not prevent that Party from taking a decision, as appropriate, �to avoid or minimize such potential adverse effects.” [Biowatch, n.d.; Genewatch, n.d. Sources: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB)]

Multilateral Trade Agreements vs. Convention on Biological Diversity - The Cartagena Protocol contains provisions that address circumstances that would also be under the jurisdiction of certain trade agreements. But it does not address the issue of which set of regulations should take precedence, only stating that “trade and environment agreements should be mutually supportive with a view to achieving sustainable development.” [Biowatch, n.d. Sources: Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CPB)]

          


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