Mandelson leaves legacy of failure and bitterness

6 October 2008

Brussels, 6 October 2008 - Friends of the Earth Europe has today deplored the miserable record of outgoing EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson.

Peter Mandelson, Member of the Barroso Commission since 2004 in charge of the external trade portfolio, announced on Friday he was leaving the post to take up a ministerial position in his home country the United Kingdom.

"Mandelson's term as EU Trade Commissioner leaves a bitter taste," said Charly Poppe, trade campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. "Mandelson's agenda failed almost on all lines, and where it succeeded, it was at the expense of the environment and poor countries."

During his term Mandelson failed to realise his primary objective of concluding the WTO Doha Round of multilateral trade talks, under negotiation since 2001.

His rescue plan to start a 'new generation' of bilateral free trade agreements has also failed. All negotiations are currently stuck, even with the most 'promising' partner South Korea. Furthermore Mandelson has managed to alienate most developing countries' governments by applying arm-twisting and 'divide-and-rule' tactics in negotiations with countries from Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific or the Andean Community.

Likewise, Mandelson's 'Global Europe' strategy, launched in October 2006, has not produced the expected results. His proposed reform of Trade Defence Instruments had to be dropped after heavy resistance from the European Member States, who were equally upset by his plans to radically liberalise the EU's agricultural markets.

Mandelson's obsessive focus on the EU's 'external competitiveness' has also been met by widespread concern from civil society groups, trade unions and non-governmental organisations.

Friends of the Earth Europe also believes that Mandelson's hard-nosed "free trade" and competitiveness agenda has played a detrimental role in the climate crisis - by pushing for business-as-usual and not assuming the responsibility of trade liberalisation in global warming, and the food crisis - by eroding the reliance of developing countries against shocks in world food markets.

Mandelson's latest move as EU Trade Commissioner was the launch last week of a large-scale offensive against developing countries' natural resources, through the dismantling of a number of 'non-tariff barriers' in the trade of raw materials.

"Such a direct attack on developing countries' sovereignty over their natural resources is not likely to improve the EU's leverage in international negotiations," said Charly Poppe.

"By putting the interests of big business at the core of the EU Trade policy and paying lip service to sustainable development concerns, Mandelson has severely damaged the EU's profile in international trade negotiations. Now is time for a radical change in EU trade policy-making to repair this damage and bring hope to people and the environment worldwide."