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BANI Supports WTO Challenge against Subsidy for Deadly Asbestos Fibers

25 June, 2010

New Delhi: Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) appeals to the imminent G-20 and G-8 summit during June 26-27 in Toronto to persuade Canadian and Russian government to stop promoting export of asbestos which is an exercise in trade distortion. Dr Manmohan Singh is also attending the summit.

While fifty-two countries have banned all forms of asbestos, India continues to use it under the seemingly insurmountable influence of countries like Canada and Russia, the major asbestos producers of the world.

BANI support EU Parliamentarian's call for WTO Challenge of $58 Million Loan Guarantee Subsidy for Deadly Export of White Asbestos (Chrysotile asbestos).

The open-pit Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec province, Canada has exported huge amounts of asbestos for the past century. Now, its surface asbestos supply exhausted, the company is under bankruptcy protection. After not being able to find financing on the private market, the mine's owners have sought a $58 million loan guarantee from the Quebec government to open a new underground mine so that it can export asbestos to developing countries for the next 25 years. Under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, a loan guarantee that facilitates financing on terms more favorable than otherwise available in the market is considered a subsidy. The subsidy is expected to be approved by July 1.

BANI appeals to Dr Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister to take cognisance of the asbestos that would be mined at the Jeffrey Mine which would ultimately take toll in India would not enter commerce in Canada. Canada has trade obligations under WTO that forbids export subsidization. While WTO rules generally discipline government subsidies, export subsidies are explicitly forbidden.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minister of Natural Resources, Christian Paradis, is a leading advocate of this major subsidy to boost Canadian exports despite trade pacts rules that forbid export subsidy trade distortions.

BANI endorses Stephen Hughes, European parliamentarian (UK) call for an inquiry seeking a WTO challenge of the proposed Canadian subsidy. The European Union has banned all use of asbestos and extraction, manufacture and processing of asbestos products in 2005.

Public Citizen, a nonprofit public interest organization based in Washington, D.C, is right in saying that a new WTO challenge of a new Canadian export subsidy certainly would make a mockery of the Canadian government's pre-summit briefings that have criticized other countries' purported slide toward protectionism and trade distortions.

Notably, Quebec and the rest of Canada, like other industrialized countries, refuse to use asbestos and are experiencing an epidemic of asbestos-related disease from past use. The world's leading health authorities have called for asbestos to be banned.

BANI endorses Public Citizen's statement underlining the hypocrisy of Canadian government which is violating human rights of workers and consumers in developing countries like India by knowingly exposing them to cancer causing asbestos fibers.

For Details : Gopal Krishna, Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI)-ToxicsWatch Alliance, New Delhi, Mb: 9818089660, Blog: banasbestosindia.blogspot.com

Public Citizen's website: www.citizen.org