Australian NGOs and union delegates at the WTO Ministerial declared today that the development package being offered to developing countries is all spin…

Hidden behind this package are plans to open essential services and threaten jobs globally. NGOs call on Trade Minister Vaile to deliver a genuine development and employment package in Hong Kong.

Sharan Burrow, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions said: Here in Hong Kong we have heard too many stories of people losing jobs, income and livelihood as their governments have been forced to open up their markets. Too often trade liberalisation serves big business at the expense of decent jobs and sustainable livelihood. We must heed the warnings, and make trade work for the people, not just for the corporations.

Jemma Bailey of the Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network, said: The Australian Government has come to Hong Kong claiming to be the friend of developing countries, yet the so-called development package does nothing to assist development. A recent World Bank study shows that the lions share of economic benefit from this negotiating round will go to rich countries. The aid for trade package is really a bribe to open up the economies of poor countries.

The hidden danger at this Ministerial is the proposal, supported by Australia, to change the negotiating structure of GATS. This change would make it easier for international services firms to commercialise essential services, such as health, education and water. It would restrict the ability of governments to regulate these services in the public interest. The push to change the GATS structure is unfair and we call on the Government to reject these proposals said Ms Bailey.

Damien Sullivan of Friends of the Earth said: The Development Package is empty promises. If accepted, it will prove to be money to build developing country coffins. Short term gains will be traded off for essential policy flexibilities in key sectors. We hope that developing countries stand their ground and do not accept this poisoned package.

Australia is playing a key role in informal and exclusive negotiations at the WTO. We need more inclusive and democratic trade negotiations and we need to ensure that trade agreements serve the public interest, not only corporate interests. The WTO has failed to deliver this and will remain in crisis until it does, said Ms Bailey.

For further information:

Alison Tate, Australian Council of Trade Unions on +61 407 510 346

Jemma Bailey, Australian Fair Trade & Investment Network on +852 6474 1744

Damien Sullivan, Friends of the Earth on +852 6128 8546

Endorsed by Unions and NGOs represented in Hong Kong: Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, The Commons Institute, AID/WATCH, Friends of the Earth and Global Trade Watch.