Promoting sustainable development through world trade agreements
The Preamble to the Agreement establishing the World Trade Organization (WTO) commits the organisation to achieving trade liberalisation that is consistent with the objective of sustainable development. The sustainable development objective requires that equal consideration be given to economic, social and environmental impacts of trade liberalisation and rules changes. This implies that sustainable development should be mainstreamed into all aspects of the WTO's work.
In accordance with the World Trade Organizations's (WTO) commitment to supporting sustainable development, further negotiations are expected to give greater consideration to the impact of trade-related measures on developing countries, particularly the least developed countries, than was the case in the [Uruguay Round] negotiations. It is generally recognised that economic development, social development and environmental protection are interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development, and that further trade liberalisation should be accompanied by whatever measures may be needed to enhance the contribution of trade to the wider sustainable development objective.
The European Union wishes to have sustainable development explicitly acknowledged as an objective of world trade organization negotiations, and to maximise the positive synergies between market liberalisation, especially as regards market access, and protection of the environment. The specific issues which the EU has proposed for negotiation are: 1. greater legal clarity on the relationship between WTO rules and trade measures taken in pursuant to multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs); 2. clarification of the relationship between WTO rules and non-product related process and production method requirements, and in particular, of the WTO compatibility of eco-labelling schemes based on a life-cycle approach; 3. review as to whether clarification of the relationship between multilateral trade rules and core environmental principles, notably the precautionary principle, is needed; and 4. cooperation between WTO and relevant international bodies including the Secretariats of MEAs, to contribute, inter alia, to capacity building in developing countries.
1. Economic and trade agreements can only claim to be effective if they fully incorporate environmental and social costs. Such agreements should not conflict with, nor supersede environmental objectives, including national environmental measures and international environmental agreements. To achieve sustainable development, pollution prevention and reduction measures must be fundamentally and consistently incorporated into economic liberalization efforts.
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