BALI, Indonesia, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- International groups for development and environment have raised concerns over trade and climate policies as trade ministers on Saturday joined discussions of the ongoing U.N. Climate Change Conference.
Dozens of trade ministers and representatives from international organizations started the Informal Trade Ministers Dialogue on Climate Change Issues here on Saturday. This is the first time that trade ministers have joined an international conference on climate change.
During their two-day meeting over the weekend, the ministers will discuss the possible inter linkages between trade, investment and climate policies.
However, international development agency Oxfam said that the meeting has been seriously compromised by a proposal by the United States and the European Union (EU) that uses the climate crisis to push for their trade liberalization schemes heavily criticized at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The United States and the EU have launched a joint push for freer trade in environmental goods and services through the WTO ahead of the talks, including climate-friendly technologies.
"The U.N. conference on climate change is being used as a pretext to dust off old proposals that haven't gotten anywhere at the WTO," said Barry Coates, executive director of Oxfam New Zealand in Bali on Saturday.
"A high priority for action on climate change is support of developing countries to access affordable and clean technology and to develop technology that is most appropriate to the challenges they face. But rich countries have done little to honor their commitments," he said.
"Rather than taking bold action to provide resources for technology transfer to developing countries, the EU and the U.S. are passing around old wine in new bottles," said Coates.
The proposal would open up developing country markets to goods that are mainly produced in rich countries, according to Oxfam.
"The U.S. and the EU have repeatedly sought market access in developing countries -- including for environmental goods and services -- but they have steadfastly refused to reform their own unfair trade practices," said Coates.
"This proposal could create the impression that the climate change challenge at the WTO can easily be addressed through promoting trade in a select few goods and services," said Coates.
He called for a new approach from the rich countries in trade negotiations, one that aims to support sound policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and poverty rather than pushing a "mercantilist" approach.
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth International warned on the eve of the talks that the informal trade talks could seriously threaten the opportunity for a just and sustainable way forward on tackling climate change.
"This informal trade ministerial taking place behind closed doors on the sidelines of climate talks is deeply worrying. What the climate negotiations need is trust and transparency. The World Trade Organization's anti-poor, anti-environment agenda must be kept out of the U.N. climate process," said Friends of Earth International Chair Meena Raman on Friday.
Technology transfer is not about reducing trade barriers. If the EU and the United States were serious about helping developing countries tackle climate change, they should be radically reducing their own emissions and living up to their obligations by paying their climate debts, said Raman.
The Bali Conference, which opened Monday, is widely expected to make a breakthrough in the form of a roadmap for a future international agreement on enhanced global action to fight climate change in the period after 2012, the year the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.