Robert Zoellic: America wants trade agreements to protect the environment

Remarks by the United States Trade Representative on bringing environmental considerations into the WTO talks in Cancun

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We have found, as in a number of areas of our trade negotiations, that some of our work with individual countries or small regions provides laboratories for us to advance the state of work in co-operative areas, and this has been particularly true in the environmental area with our free trade agreements. As part of our negotiations of free trade agreements, we set various environmental objectives and have various provisions for the enforcement of those obligations

One other thing we do with our environmental advisory committees is to refine the process of environmental reviews. This is a concept that the United States has invited other countries to consider as a way of strengthening the nexus between environment and trade. So the US does environmental reviews with each of our trade agreements. These are a rolling process and give us a guide to some elements that we can try to do, either in the trade agreement or ancillary to the trade agreement.

To give you an example of what this means in practical terms, we've had an interim environmental review of a trade agreement with the five countries of Central America. This identifies some particular environmental/economic challenges of this trade agreement, focusing on topics such as migratory birds, since a number of the countries in Central America are not only nesting but transit sites between North and South America; wildlife conservation; and marine pollution. We hope as we move forward with that agreement to try to link it to a co-operative mechanism.

Over the next couple of days [in Cancun], we will move forward the Doha negotiations as part of this environmental review process. We will be putting out a Federal Register notice right after these negotiations inviting public comment for our Doha agenda environmental review on the developments of this stage of work. We would like to get public comment on these negotiations - how they affect the environment of the United States and others - with the goal of trying to complete the interim environmental review by early in the course of 2004.

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