Groups urge White House to call for moratorium on WTO challenges to consumer and environmental protection rules

fruit in bowl

WASHINGTON - A coalition of consumer, environmental, and labor organizations today urged President Clinton to call for a moratorium on challenges by governments to consumer and environmental measures at the World Trade Organization (WTO). The coalition also called for a public review of the effect of trade agreements on consumer and environmental protection rules.

     The groups charged that Administration officials are failing to follow through on the President’s pronouncement that efforts to facilitate trade should not result in a “race to the bottom” in consumer and environmental standards.

     The coalition’s letter noted that contrary to the President’s public statement, both the United States and the European Union (EU) have urged each other to facilitate trade by dropping rules aimed at protecting consumers. For example, the U.S. claims that the EU ban on the use of antibiotics used in human medicine to accelerate the growth of livestock violates the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) even though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found the EU ban to be “scientifically justified.” The EU has claimed that U.S. nutrition labeling rules designed to help consumers improve their diet violates the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

     “The public has sent a clear message — it objects to trade agreements that are used to attack consumer protection measures,” said Bruce Silverglade, Director of Legal Affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). “The President claims that trade should not lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ but his advisors are following policies that could lead to that precise result.”

     The letter urges President Clinton to “take the lead in rebuilding public confidence in the WTO... in light of events that transpired at the Third Ministerial Meeting of the WTO in Seattle last December.” Protests against the WTO and other international agencies have also occurred this week in Washington, D.C.

     Groups signing the letter to President Clinton include: CSPI, the Sierra Club, the Food and Allied Service Trades - AFL-CIO, Public Citizen, Government Accountability Project, the Consumer Federation of America, and the Institute for Trade and Agriculture Policy.