U.S.-Japan Study Group Offers Recommendations For Better International Trade and Environment Policies

Trade and environment experts from the United States and Japan today issued a joint statement offering recommendations for better management of environmental issues by international organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum – APEC – and the World Trade Organization –WTO.

Recommendations included a more focused mandate for the WTO’s Committee on Trade and Environment, and closer attention by policy makers to the idea of forming a global environmental organization that would operate in tandem with the WTO.

The recommendations were agreed upon at a New York City meeting June 26-27 organized by the Global Environment & Trade Study – GETS – at Yale University and the Global Industrial and Social Progress Research Institute – GISPRI – in Tokyo. The study group, which began preparing for the meeting more than a year ago, was chaired by GETS director Steve Charnovitz of Yale and GISPRI director Katsuo Seiki.

Other participants included Daniel Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, and associate professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Yale Law School; Mark Ritchie of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Christopher Stone of the University of Southern California Law Center; Kazuhiro Ueta of Kyoto University; Mitsutsune Yamaguchi of Keio University; Hideaki Shiroyama of the University of Tokyo; James Cameron of the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development in the United Kingdom; and Satoshi Miyake of GISPRI. Funding for the collaboration was provided by the Center for Global Partnership – Japan Foundation.

Additional recommendations for APEC and the WTO from the study group focused on better analysis of subsidies for agriculture, fishing, energy and forestry industries, because such subsidies frequently distort the market and damage the environment without providing any clear economic benefits; developing better mechanisms for mediating environmental disputes between nations; encouraging more research into the linkage between trade and the environment; recognizing the value of input from business and environmental groups; and moving toward effective and efficient reduction of greenhouse gases.

Professor Esty said policy makers must find a middle course between “blind environmentalism and narrowly focused trade liberalization.” Successfully navigating between these twin hazards will require a worldwide environmental policy organization – which he suggested calling the Global Environmental Organization – GEO – operating in parallel with the WTO.

The proposed GEO, which drew support last week from German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and several other world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly Special Session “Earth Summit + Five Years,” need not be a big, new bureaucracy, Professor Esty said. In fact, the organization should be a streamlined body with a carefully tailored mission. It should replace the sagging U.N. Environment Program and the Commission on Sustainable Development, which he called “a dysfunctional legacy” of the Earth Summit in Rio.

The WTO’s Committee on Trade and Environment needs a more focused mandate, increased environmental participation and further analytical input, according to the study group. “The WTO committee’s focus should be on areas in which agreements benefit both developed and developing countries, such as increased market access and elimination of inefficient subsidies,” Mr. Charnovitz said. “The committee’s membership should be expanded to include national and international environmental officials as well as representatives from nonprofit environmental groups.”

Furthermore, environmental protection and trade liberalization should be viewed as compatible goals that can be mutually reinforcing rather than conflicting, the environmental experts agreed.

In addition to the joint policy statement issued today, the study group will publish several research papers this fall on the environmental dimensions of APEC, dispute mediation in APEC, and fishery, agricultural, and pollution control subsidies. For more information, contact Dan Esty, 203/432-6256, or Rajini Ramakrishnan, 203/432-6065.

Note to Editors: The Global Environment & Trade Study – GETS – at Yale University draws together a diverse group of trade, environment and development experts – including scientists, economists, ethicists, lawyers, geographers and political scientists – with the goal of formulating concrete, practical and politically feasible proposals for reconciling trade liberalization and environmental protection.

The three core GETS institutions are the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development in London, directed by James Cameron; the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, directed by Mark Ritchie; and the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, directed by Daniel Esty.

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