Malign US influence on Mexico, Thailand and others (12/5/2005)

This week Mexico was among 5 countries which tried to terminate discussions on international GM labelling guidelines at Codex.

The full list was: United States, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay and the Philippines.

Nothing could better point up the malign influence of the US and its use of "free trade" agreements.
The item below shows how Mexico was originally all set to introduce mandatory GM labelling until it came under pressure from American agribiz interests via the US administration.

Mexico is vulnerable to such pressure because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which codifies harsh neoliberal economic policies that have helped to sweep away laws and protections for Mexican workers and consumers.

If anyone is in any doubt that this is the source of US leverage, consider the way that 2 countries which already have GM labelling also spoke out this week against Codex guidelines. They were Australia and Thailand both of which have been in prolonged negotiations with the US to develop bilateral trade agreements. In both cases, it has been apparent that they are under pressure to amend or block GM-related laws and regulations.

In Thailand, for instance, the Bangkok Post reported how, "Monsanto sent a letter to the US Trade Representative calling on Washington to address current trade barriers to agricultural biotechnology with the Thai government at the Thai-US free trade agreement negotiations."

And Witoon Lianchamroon of Bio-Thai was quoted in the same article as saying that both the US administration and Monsanto had been pressing the Thai government to amend domestic laws and regulations that impeded market access to American GM products.

Similarly, the Thai Environment Minister was led to publicly object to the US's insisting that Thailand grow GM crops as a condition of the bilateral free trade agreement.

Prior to this the head of the Thai Food and Drug Administration revealed how a visiting US trade delegation had threatened trade sanctions against Thai imports, worth about US$8.7bn a year, if Thai GM labelling went ahead. The threats to invoke Section 301 of the U.S. trade laws were made during an official visit.

What happens to countries that displease the US can be seen in the case of Egypt where the administration suddenly pulled out of bilateral negotiations on a free trade deal when the country crossed the US in its GM policy. "I can relate all of these problems to Egypt's decision to withdraw its support for the US challenge on the ban of imports of genetically modified foods to the EU," said Mostafa Zaki, of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Commerce.

The kind of pressures experienced by countries like Egypt and Thailand are, of course, reminiscent of the bilateral agreements that the US has signed with regard to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and with developing countries that produce generic drugs.

The latter led France's President Jacques Chirac at an Aids conference in Bangkok to accuse America of blackmailing developing countries into giving up their right to produce cheap drugs for Aids victims. Chirac said there existed a real problem of favourable trade deals being dangled before poor nations in return for those countries halting production of life-saving generic drugs.

And the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (FTA) shows that it is not only developing countries that have suffered from this kind of pressure on the GM issue.

Industry mobilizes to modify Mexico's labeling measures

(February 12, 2001 -- Cropchoice news)-- The U.S. agricultural industry is pressuring Mexico not to implement mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The Mexican Senate added a provision to the country's general health code that would require such labels. The Mexican Chamber of Deputies will review and act on the measure next month.

Possibly fearing that consumers in yet another market might not buy its transgenic fare, 20 U.S. agriculture groups sent a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell in which they asked that President Bush air their concerns when he visits Mexico in March.


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