Letter: European parliaments denied a say on Gatt

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Sir: Whether for or against Nafta, American citizens knew that the final say would rest with their democratically elected representatives in Congress. They have the same assurance when it comes to the Gatt treaty, assuming it is agreed in December. Ratification will only be possible if Congress gives its approval.

We understand that in Britain our elected MPs at Westminster will have no effective say in whether or not the agreement should be ratified. The treaty has been negotiated by the European Commission and will be ratified by the EC, not individual countries within Europe. It is also possible that our elected representatives in Europe will be cut out of the process of ratification. Lawyers for the Commission are arguing that the treaty can be approved by the Council of Ministers alone, without approval of the European Parliament. Thankfully, the European Parliament is contesting this.

Meanwhile, details of the Gatt negotiations remain secret. Only this week, the contentious issue of the proposed Multilateral Trade Organisation (MTO) has arisen again since the text has been renegotiated. Yet the renegotiated proposal is not yet publicly available (even to MPs) and we gather it is unlikely to be until after the 15 December deadline for the signing of the Gatt Uruguay Round. Along with the rest of us, our representatives in Parliament will thus be kept in the dark as to the details of the MTO and many other aspects of the Gatt treaty until it is signed, sealed and delivered.

Yet the treaty has profound implications for the job prospects of citizens throughout the world, for the environment and for national sovereignty. For Europe's parliaments to be denied the final say in the shape and adoption of Gatt is nothing short of a scandal.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID TAYLOR, Acting Director, Worldwide Fund for Nature UK; PETER MELCHETT, Executive Director, Greenpeace UK; CHARLES SECRETT, Director, Friends of the Earth UK; MICHAEL TAYLOR, Director, Christian Aid; KEVIN WATKINS, Senior Policy Adviser, Oxfam; BEN JACKSON, Acting Director, World Development Movement; ED MAYO, Director, New Economics Foundation; TIM LANG, Chair, Safe Alliance; NICHOLAS HILDYARD, Co-Editor, The Ecologist

Sturminster Newton,


30 November