President Clinton and Vice President Gore: Expanding Trade and Ensuring a Healthy Environment, November 16, 1999


President Clinton and Vice President Gore:
Expanding Trade and Ensuring a Healthy Environment
November 16, 1999

President Clinton and Vice President Gore today outlined a strategy to ensure that U.S. and international efforts to expand trade are consistent with a high level of environmental protection worldwide and serve the broader goal of sustainable development. In his State of the Union Address earlier this year, the President urged creation of a new American consensus on trade, built in part on an effort to "level up" environmental protections as international trade and investment rules are liberalized. The policy initiatives announced today will help further this goal by systematically integrating environmental considerations into the development of US trade policy, staking out US policy positions on key environmental issues before the World Trade Organization, and supporting complementary steps to improve international environmental practices and standards, including the provision of technical and financial assistance to help developing countries design and implement strong domestic environmental protections.

The U.S. and the WTO: Putting a Human Face on the Global Economy. As part of his agenda for the new round of global trade negotiations set to be launched in Seattle, Washington later this month, the President has proposed broadening participation in the benefits of trade among and within nations in part by addressing key environmental and labor concerns. Today, the President elaborated on the environmental aspects of his appeal for a human face to be put on the global economy by:

  1. Signing an Executive Order to Require Environmental Reviews of Proposed Trade Agreements. The President today signed an Executive Order requiring careful assessment and consideration of the environmental impacts of trade agreements, including through detailed written reviews of major, environmentally significant trade agreements. The Executive Order for the first time formally institutionalizes procedures to ensure the timely consideration of environmental issues in the development of U.S. positions for trade negotiations. It represents a major development in the effort to integrate and balance the twin U.S. objectives of promoting economic growth through expanded trade and sustainable development through strong domestic environmental protections. Specifically, the Executive Order:

    • Requires written environmental reviews of comprehensive multilateral trade rounds, bilateral or plurilateral free trade agreements, major trade liberalization agreements in natural resource sectors, and other agreements that may have significant, reasonably foreseeable environmental effects.
    • Requires that reviews be undertaken early enough in the process to help shape negotiating positions.
    • Requires public notice when a review begins; opportunity for input from outside experts and the public; and public release of the findings.
    • Requires that reviews focus primarily on environmental impacts in the United States and, as appropriate, a also examine international and global impacts.
    • Directs the United States Trade Representative and Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality to oversee implementation of the Order in consultation with economic, environmental and foreign policy agencies.

  2. Issuing a White House Declaration of Environmental Trade Policy Principles to Guide U.S. Negotiators and Ensure That the Work of the WTO Is Supportive of Sustainable Development. The WTO Charter explicitly recognizes sustainable development as a fundamental goal. The President today issued a White House Policy Declaration on Environment and Trade outlining a set of principles to guide U.S. negotiators’ efforts to ensure that the WTO fulfills this part of its mission. In particular, the Policy Declaration pledges the United States to pursue trade liberalization in the new round of trade negotiations in a manner that is supportive of our commitment to high levels of protection for the environment by:

    • Promoting reform of the WTO, notably its dispute settlement procedures, to improve their transparency and openness to public participation.
    • Strengthening cooperation between the WTO and other international organizations, particularly the United Nations Environment Program, with respect to environmental matters.
    • Identifying and pursuing "win-win" opportunities where opening markets and reducing or eliminating trade distortions can yield direct environmental benefits, such as by reducing fish and agricultural subsidies.
    • Stating the U.S. view that the WTO broadly accommodates trade measures included in multilateral environmental agreements when they are carefully tailored and appropriately applied, such as in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Montreal Protocol with respect to ozone-depleting chemicals.
    • Ensuring that trade rules are supportive of and do not undermine our ability to maintain and enforce fully our environmental laws by staking out U.S. positions on issues such as the WTO’s deference to national regulatory authorities, WTO members’ rights to determine whether to accept another member’s regulations as equivalent to its own, trade measures based on processes and production methods (PPMs), Ecolabeling, and Precaution.
    • Ensuring the appropriate inclusion on U.S. trade negotiation teams of environmental, health and safety officials, and encouraging our trading partners to do likewise.
    • Taking fully into account environmental implications throughout the course of the negotiations, including by performing a written environmental review of the new WTO round.

  3. Promoting Improved Environmental Practices in Developing Countries Through Technical Assistance to Strengthen Their Environmental Institutions. The Administration today released a survey of U.S. Government environmental capacity-building efforts in developing countries, underscoring its commitment to the pursuit of sustainable development and high levels of global environmental protection, including through means extending beyond trade policy. The United States is working actively to ensure that developing countries have the capacity to address environmental management issues as they integrate into the world economy. We believe the absence of environmental regulatory and management capacity can undermine long-term economic development and threaten ecological systems essential to sustainable development, thereby limiting the contribution to broad living standards from expanded trade and economic growth. U.S. capacity building activities involve several agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, Agriculture Department, Environmental Protection Agency, State Department, Justice Department, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of Energy. They fall into three broad categories:

    1. Promoting integrated policies in developing countries to protect the environment while raising social and economic standards:

      • Integrating economic, social, and environmental objectives into a mutually supportive policy framework.
      • Strengthening legal, regulatory, and judicial policies and procedures as they relate to environmental management.

    2. Promoting environmentally sustainable international trade and investment liberalization;

      • Building institutional capacity in natural resources management and conservation.
      • Enhancing the ability of countries to understand, participate in, and implement the provisions of international institutional frameworks, such as multilateral environmental arrangements and international trade agreements.
      • Improving the environmental performance of international financial institutions and export credit agencies.

    3. Assessing and addressing environmental impacts of trade and investment liberalization:

      • Enhancing stakeholder understanding of and participation in the identification and resolution of trade, investment, and environmental conflicts.
      • Promoting transparent and open decision-making processes and strengthening of the capacity of all segments of civil society to participate in a meaningful way in decisions that affect their lives.

  4. Providing International Leadership on the Environment. Americans today enjoy the strongest economy and cleanest environment in a generation, and the Clinton Administration is working with the international community to promote the same objectives around the globe. The United States has played a critical role in international efforts -- through multilateral environmental treaties and other means -- to protect endangered species, phase out highly toxic chemicals, restore fisheries, and address global warming. In addition, the United States has applied the highest environmental standards to its overseas lending and development assistance; promoted similar efforts at the World Bank and other multilateral institutions; and led efforts to build environmental safeguards into trade pacts like the North America Free Trade Agreement.

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