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"The WTO's plan to investigate alleged US illegalities in regulating the banana trade is only a preview of what will happen if the WTO takes forest products under its wing. Just as the US may prove unable to protect its produce markets, any local or national law protecting the environment, or endangered species, will be undercut by the world body. What we need is not an investigation into the so-called illegality of US self-preservation, but whether the WTO will fuel the destruction of the world's last old growth forests and savage the rights of nations in the name of free trade."  - Kelly Quirke, Executive Director , Rainforest Action Network

SEATTLE, Washington - Environmental and human rights activists reacted with dismay at the recent decision of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to undertake an investigation into possible
illegalities in US protective trade sanctions, set off by a dispute with the European Union over tariffs on bananas. "I don't understand why Washington, DC would tolerate an outside trade association
dictating the limits we can go to protect our national interest," said RAN's Executive Director Kelly Quirke. "If the WTO can nullify trade laws put in place by our elected representatives, it'll be no time before it starts gutting environmental laws and circumventing basic human rights."

The WTO is already looking expand trade in forest products at its Ministerial in Seattle this coming November. A proposed elimination of tariffs on forest products could encourage a massive increase in logging world-wide, putting an undue strain on US forests, and threatening the last old growth forests of the Amazon, Africa and Canada with fast-track destruction. "When only about 20 percent of the world's original forest-cover is still standing, and only about four percent in the United States," said Quirke, "it's simply barbaric to make it easier to cut down what remains."

Next week nearly fifty environmental, trade, labor and human rights groups from around the world will be meeting outside of Seattle to build a strategy to counter developments with the WTO. The groups will preview its plans for the WTO Ministerial, as well as announce a concerted international campaign against the WTO, at a press conference 10 AM, June 28 at The Mountaineers in Seattle, 300 3rd Ave West. The groups include RAN, International Forum on Globalization, and Pacific Environment Resource Center among many others.

"Basically, we don't want to see the WTO get anything new under its control," Quirke concluded. "It's frightening to see the extent to which our nation's laws are already under attack. There's no reason on Earth we should we give a bunch of self-interested trade bureaucrats in Geneva authority over our lives and our planet's environmental well-being."

Source: Rainforest Action Network 19 Jun 1999