February 28, 2007
GCRIO Program Overview
Our extensive collection of documents.
Archives of the
Global Climate Change Digest
A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999
FROM VOLUME 12, NUMBER 3, MARCH 1999
SPECIAL REPORT ON INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS...
WTO Symposium on
Trade and Environment
debate, negotiation, and adjudication, the World Trade Organization (WTO)
establishes the contractual obligations that regulate how governments
develop legislation and regulations pertaining to trade. Its objectives
are to lower barriers between peoples and nations, avoid discrimination,
and create a global trading system that is rule-based not power-based.
Recognizing the environmental impacts of development and commerce, it
established a Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) "to identify
the relationship between trade measures and environmental measures in
order to promote sustainable development." That Committee held a
high-level symposium on trade and environment in Geneva on March 15-16,
1999, to consider
- linkages between trade and environment policies;
- synergies between trade liberalization, environmental protection,
sustained economic growth, and sustainable development; and
- interaction between trade and environment communities.
The Symposium was organized into three panels along these topics.
Attendance included more than 150 representatives from environment and
development NGOs, corporations, research and academic institutions, and
The meeting was presided over by Renato Ruggiero, Director-General of
the World Trade Organization. A message President Clinton's announced that
the United States would recommend the reduction of environmentally
damaging subsidies and would pledge to conduct an environmental review of
the next round of negotiations. Sir Leon Brittan, Vice-President of the
European Commission, said that the key to successful policy on trade and
environment would lie in a coordinated approach to sustainable
development. He stressed the need to adopt a clear and workable approach
to eco-labeling and suggested that all WTO members integrate their trade
and environment policies. Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP,
said that trade and environmental policy cannot be isolated from
consideration of international debt, alleviating poverty, the transfer of
technology, and enhancing developing countries capacity to attain
sustainable development. He laid out four steps to be taken to address
- to identify the environmental strengths and weaknesses of trade
- to exploit the environmental benefits of economic liberalization
(e.g., full cost internalization and the removal of price-distorting
- to articulate fundamental principles of international environmental
policy to guide multilateral trading, and
- to make the multilateral trading system accommodate fundamental
environmental principles and further sustainable development.
Ian Johnson, Vice President of the World Bank, said the challenge is to
use the trade flows that had lifted millions out of poverty while
protecting the environment. And Maritta Koch-Weser, Director-General of
the World Conservation Union, raised several issues to be addressed:
capacity building; intellectual property rights; the sharing of benefits
from genetic resources, and biosecurity; elevating the CTE to a standing
committee; the role of civil society; and evaluating existing rules of
In the panel on linkages between trade and environment policies, Michael
Zammit Cutajar, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change, noted that trade policies emphasized
liberalization and freedom and environment policies emphasized
conservation and protection. Luis de la Calle said that, rather than being
subject to trade sanctions, developing countries should be given access to
environmental technology, technical support, and funding for environmental
protection. Other participants noted:
- The current system does not ensure equitable distribution of wealth;
rather, it leads to great disparities in consumption and income.
- Governments must ensure that growth remains within the limits of the
ecological boundaries of the planet.
- Environmental policies are as legitimate as any other policies.
- The best solution to conflicts would be resolution within
- Little progress has been made in aiding developing countries to
Participants also commented on the need to curb protectionism, the use
of unilateral measures, and the relationship of multilateral environment
agreements (MEAs) to WTO rules.
The panel on synergies among trade liberalization, environmental
protection, sustained economic growth, and sustainable development focused
how the removal of trade distortions could have a positive impact on
environment protection, economic growth, and development (i.e., a "win-win-win"
solution). Comments included:
- Liberalization should be pursued only where it contributes to
- The trading system should be reoriented to promote safe products and
to discourage trade in harmful products.
- The trading system should be sensitive to environmental concerns at
the same time that environmental regimes understand the need for
- The rules of the trading system must not be slanted toward the
promotion of trade interests at the expense of other values.
In the panel on interaction between the trade and environment
communities, comments were made that:
- Three relationships needed to be enhanced: between civil society and
the WTO, between environmental and other international organizations,
and between trade and environmental policymakers.
- The ability of trade liberalization to produce real gains in
sustainable development needs to be demonstrated through a focus on
sustainable development (particularly in the South), the creation of a
standing conference on trade and environment, and the negotiation of a
WTO Agreement on the Environment that emphasized transparency and
- WTO members should consult at the national and international levels
before negotiations take place.
- WTO should pursue formal cooperation agreements with other
international bodies, not just other economic bodies.
- "Harmonization of environmental standards" would not
address the environmental conditions and requirements that differ from
territory to territory; uniform standards could result in inappropriate
allocation of limited resources.
- The reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions called for by the Kyoto
Protocol could require an increase in the energy efficiency of some
equipment and processes, which could produce trade and environment
Recurrent themes touched upon at the Symposium included the importance
of building capacity in the South; the need for transparency in WTO
activities; the need to engage civil society in the debate to increase
public support for the WTO; the need to address trade, environment, and
sustainable development in a comprehensive way that improves market
access, technology transfer, and debt relief; the need for environmental
review of economic-development projects; the use of MEAs to address
transboundary issues; and the need to address environmental problems by
other, better means than trade restrictions.
A full report on this meeting can be found at
Guide to Publishers
Index of Abbreviations