Friday, 14 September 2007

EU appeal at WTO Panel seeks to weaken Brazil’s green laws

Anti-poverty and green campaigners have called on the European Commission to withdraw a challenge it is mounting to health and environmental protection measures in Brazil. The Commission is appealing against a recent World Trade Organisation report into a dispute over a Brazilian ban on imports of retreaded tyres. Brazil has argued that the large quantity of tyre waste it has to deal with each year create a risk of soil, groundwater and air contamination. Tyre waste also increases the likelihood of diseases, especially in a tropical climate. A panel set up by the WTO has found the restrictions on retreaded tyres are “provisionally justified” as they are needed to protect humans from malaria and other illnesses carried by mosquitoes. But the Commission is arguing that banning retreaded tyres from the EU is discriminatory as Brazil imports them from its neighbouring countries.

Jürgen Maier from the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development argues that the EU’s position in this case “does not make sense”. In a letter to Peter Mandelson, the European commissioner for trade, he pointed out that the EU has defended its own environmental and public health standards at the WTO in disputes relating to hormone-treated beef, asbestos and genetically modified foods. “Instead of appealing, the Commission should support Brazil and other developing countries to implement efficient measures for the responsible management of used tyres and other hazardous waste,” said Maier.

In an open letter to the European Commission's Trade Commissioner Mandelson, CIEL and WWF Europe express their concern about the EC's decision to appeal the WTO Panel report in the Brazil-Retreaded-Tyres dispute. In their letter, CIEL and WWF urge the EC to either withdraw their intention to appeal or, at a minimum, to focus any appeal narrowly to avoid compromising the ability of WTO Members to protect life, health, and the environment. In addition, because of the undeniable public importance of this case and precedent-setting effect any Appellate Body decision will have, the two groups ask that an appeal in this case be conducted in a transparent and open manner. The most effective way of achieving this is by posting pleadings (including with respect to appeals) on the official governmental web site contemporaneously with their being filed with the WTO, and by web casting hearings in real time.

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