Press releases

Thursday 25 Nov 1999

Promoting the linkages between environment and trade policy

Nairobi, 25 November 1999 - Ahead of the 3rd World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meeting, to be held in Seattle from 30 November to 3 December 1999, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is calling for a more coherent and integrated approach to trade and environment policy-making. According to UNEP Executive Director, Klaus Toepfer, such an approach, which should maximise the environmental benefits of trade, is a necessary step towards achieving the goal of sustainable development world-wide.

With ever increasing environmental threats such as land degradation and global warming, growing world poverty and other challenges linked to globalisation, the need to ensure that both trade and environmental policies are mutually supportive is more pressing today than ever before,? said Toepfer.

Further trade liberalisation should be viewed not as an aim in itself, but as another tool by which we can achieve sustainable development. Trade liberalization should be used to maximize environmental objectives and promote the achievement of sustainable development," Toepfer continued.

In Seattle, governments are expected to launch the next round of global trade talks, and also to decide on the scope and extent to which environmental considerations will be incorporated in these negotiations. For many delegates and observers, the environmental implication of further trade liberalisation is the most critical issue to be addressed in the current environment and development debate.

Seattle is an opportunity for the international community to promote and strengthen the linkages between trade and environment policy,? said Toepfer, who also welcomed the Declaration of Principles on Trade and Environment issued last week by President Clinton as a guide to US negotiators in Seattle.

UNEP believes that more needs to be done at the national and international level to assist countries in preparing themselves to address the environmental challenges of trade liberalisation.

To this end, UNEP is currently assisting developing countries to improve their capacity to protect their environment by helping them to first carry out assessments and then to develop national policies which integrate sustainable development considerations - economic, environmental and social - with trade policies.

This capacity building work, which also looks at the trade implications of environmental policy, is one part of a recently agreed framework of co-operation between UNEP and WTO. The framework, which builds on the on-going work between the two organisations, emphasises the importance of continued collaboration between the secretariats of UNEP and WTO on trade and environment issues.

*******

For more information please contact:
Hussein Abaza,
Chief, UNEP - Economics and Trade Unit, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland,
tel: +41-22-917-8179, fax: +41-22- 917-8076,
e-mail: eteu@unep.ch

Note to journalists:
For press information and to arrange interviews in Seattle,
contact Robert Bisset,
UNEP press officer in Seattle (from 27 November),
c/o Crown Plaza Hotel,
tel: +1-206-464-1980, fax:+1-206-340-1617,
email: robert.bisset@unep.org

In Nairobi, contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
UNEP Spokesman
on tel: +254- 2-623292, fax: +254-2-623692,
email: cpiinfo@unep.org

UNEP News Release 1999/132

Thursday 25 Nov 1999
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