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Berne Declaration media statement on bilateral trade agreements

Berne Declaration Switzerland
Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations

June 22, 2004

Media Release

Swiss and bilateral instead of multilateral and development oriented:
North-South free-trade agreements are obstacles to development

It is not widely known that Switzerland will sign two more bilateral
free trade agreements (with Lebanon and Tunisia) on the occasion of the
meeting of ministers of EFTA states (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway,
Iceland) taking place in Montreux (Switzerland) on June 24. These
agreements include regulations on intellectual property going far beyond
WTO regulations which infringe on the rights of farmers and also limit
the access of poor populations to better medication. The Berne
Declaration and the Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations request
that such regulations going beyond WTO be abandoned and that
negotiations be transparent.

While the negotiations of the World Trade Organization WTO are stalled,
the northern trading nations are pushing regional free trade agreements
with selected developing countries. Switzerland is concluding the sixth
such agreement already in the context of EFTA. In addition, negotiations
are in process with Egypt and South African countries (SACU). All these
agreements include specifications which go beyond the comprehensive WTO
regulations. In particular with respect to intellectual property,
Switzerland is strongly promoting the so-called TRIPs Plus regulations.
"Thereby the right of farmers to re-use seed is restricted, and also
access to vital medication is hindered. The Swiss government acts thus
in contradiction to the agreement signed in Doha, according to which all
countries have the right to take measures in favor of public health, and
in particular to enable the supply of medication to everybody", Julien
Reinhard of the Berne Declaration said.

Switzerland also intends to put on the bilateral agenda subjects which
are highly controversial within the WTO. For example, developing
countries reject an agreement on investment which offers all the
privileges to investors but does not subject these to any obligations.
In the context of WTO, moreover, only a few developing countries
committed themselves to the deregulation of the services sector. "Now
Switzerland is trying the bilateral road to induce developing countries
to deregulate their financial markets", Marianne Hochuli of the Berne
Declaration explained, "in doing this, Switzerland is pursuing its own
economic interests, questions of development policy are of no

"Such North-South free trade zones are questionable", Peter Niggli of
the Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations thinks, "unlike
preferential South-South trade agreements, these North-South agreements
risk to hinder rather than advance the development of poor countries."

The Berne Declaration and the Swiss Coalition of Development
Organizations request from the Swiss government and from the state
secretariat for economic affairs "seco"
 a transparent negotiating process for bilateral free trade and
investment agreements
 no regulations going beyond WTO regulations
 no subjects which are rejected by developing countries within WTO

for further information please contact:

Marianne Hochuli, Berne Declaration, Zurich, phone +41 1 277 70 11
Julien Reinhard, Déclaration de Berne, Lausanne, phone +41 21 620 03 06
mobile +41 76 327 67 41
Peter Niggli, Swiss Coalition of Development
Organizations, mobile +41 79 262 69 27

Berne Declaration
Marianne Hochuli
Postfach, Quellenstrasse 25, CH-8031 Zürich
Tel. direkt ++41/(0)1- 277 70 11
FAX ++41/(0)1- 277 70 01
Spendenkonto 80-8885-4