Apr 29, 2008

Protectionism Extending To Biofuels

The same issue of the Financial Times details some equally crazy EU plans to ignore WTO rules and impose all kinds of conditionality - including adherence to ILO standards - to biofuel imports (are these people for real???).

Anxious to distance itself from charges that its push for biofuels is creating hunger round the world, the European Union is considering stringent social and environmental criteria for imports that the US and some other big biofuel producers would not meet.

The sustainability criteria under discussion would in effect bypass World Trade Organisation rules forbidding biofuel bans. By excluding those products not meeting the criteria from its biofuels target of a 10 per cent contribution to the fuel mix by 2010, the EU would deprive those products of government support, removing incentives to import them.

One option under discussion is to exclude imports from countries that have not ratified a range of international agreements on labour and environmental standards, including the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

Documents seen by the Financial Times state that exporters would have to abide by at least 10 of 12 treaties, from International Labour Organisation accords on equal pay, child labour and the right of workers to organise, to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The US, wary of labour market restrictions, has ratified few of these. Malaysia, a big palm oil producer, would also fall short.

A second option would require producers to prove that they had complied with national laws enforcing ILO standards, that pesticide use was limited and that the local population had been consulted about biofuel plantations. Diplomats from EU member states have been unable to agree on how tough the criteria should be.

"There is a wide consensus among the member states to include environmental and social criteria for the production of biofuels regardless of their origin. However, how to implement these principles is still being debated," said a spokesman for Slovenia, which is chairing the talks.
Countries including the UK and Belgium have expressed doubts about whether the EU should stick with its biofuel targets. Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and development commissioner Louis Michel also have doubts.

What is most frightening is that we have heard similar ideas from Labour and Green politicians in New Zealand....