6:15 AM Mar 2, 1994


Geneva 2 March (TWN) -- With the filing of the market access schedules by the four Quad members (Canada, EC, Japan and the US) and others expected to do the same this week, the process of verification is expected to begin Friday.

Meanwhile, a legal drafting group has been looking at the Final Act text settled on 15 December and the changes, from a legal and drafting focus, proposed by the secretariat.

Participants said that apart from changes, such as changing references to the Multilateral Trade Organization in the text to World Trade Organization (the nomenclature settled at the last moment on 15 December, at US instance), there were several others that had been proposed by the secretariat.

However, there was an extreme reluctance on the part of many to accept any changes -- both because of suspicions and doubt on what a change might involve in future interpretations.

Consultations are also expected to begin later this week on the question of a work programme on trade and environment that the ministers are to adopt at Marrakesh.

The United States and the European Community want to create a Committee on Trade and Environment in the WTO, but there is some reluctance and opposition to this from some of the developing countries as well as a few of the industrialized countries too.

These latter prefer an ad hoc committee or group to undertake an actual work programme to identify the issues including the questions about whether changes were needed in the multilateral trading rules, before deciding whether or not a special committee was needed to look into any trade measures arising out of international agreements.

Some developing country delegates seem to think that if agreement to create a WTO Committee on Trade and Environment would help the US administration dilute the opposition of its environmental NGOs and get the Uruguay Round agreements across Congress, there may be no harm in this.

But those opposed have not been won over, referring to their past experience where such developing country compromises have been used to add to the burdens of developing countries.

They cite in this connection the testimony of some of the environmental groups before the US Congress, and of several of the international groups, to argue that these demands for a special committee or for the GATT dispute settlement system to provide for 'exceptional procedures and mechanisms' whenever an environment reason for trade restriction is cited, are nothing more than a protectionist intent.

A number of US NGOs, as well as from Europe, have been arguing vehemently for example against the WTO provisions requiring countries to bring their laws, regulating measures into compliance with their obligations under the WTO agreements, and the dispute settlement mechanisms -- in effect wanting 'environmental laws' to be kept outside this scope and for dispute settlement rulings not to be automatic and binding where 'environment grounds' are cited by a country imposing trade restrictions or at least for the burden of proof that an environmental plea is really protectionist to be shifted on to the shoulders of the complainants.

Several of the US NGOs have also been supportive of US unilateralism to take trade actions and sanctions to protect environment, within US jurisdiction or extra-territorially.

There have also been the pleas that restrictions based on the process of production method (PPMs) should be allowed by the GATT.

Very revealing for example has been the testimony of the FOE-US, which is objecting to the concept, found in the UNCED Agenda-21, that no law for environment protection be "more trade restrictive than necessary".

In this testimony, FOE-US argued that it would not always be possible to institute the least trade restrictive environmental standard or achieve equivalent environmental protection because of "political or economic feasibility".

Since the cost of higher standards sought by a country for its citizens might require otherwise budgetary outlay or taxes etc and thus 'politically infeasible', the FOE-US evidence appeared to be an argument for shifting the burden of environmental protection within a country on to others through trade restrictions on others since other non-trade domestic measures would have political or economic costs.

The FOE testimony said that until such time as the resolution of the US-perceive conflict between its laws purporting to protect the environment and GATT/WTO trade rules are resolved through a Clinton-proposed 'Green Round', there should be a moratorium on any challenges to US federal, state or local environmental or health-based laws.

All such US laws, FOE-US said, which had been passed and adopted in a democratic process (inside the US) should not be open for attack in a separate forum by trading partners of the US!

The FOE testimony also complained that the GATT ruling in the Mexican tuna fish case prohibited countries from basing import decisions on the basis of how a product was produced and that many environmental issues were related to how a product was produced, whether or not toxics are released into the atmosphere and which wildlife is killed or forest systems are destroyed.

To set trade rules to adopt a more sustainable path of development, process and production methods would have to be recognized as legitimate measures to restrict imports and countries should be allowed and encouraged to adopt them.

Absent throughout the testimony is how and why the rest of the world should delegate to the US or the US arrogate to itself the right to determine standards of environmental protection for the rest of the world, rather than through a process of negotiating such multilateral agreements in an universal fora.