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The WTO's Lamy Stresses Importance Of Doha For The Environment

by Leroy Baker,, New York

08 February 2007

Following the informal agreements reached by world leaders at the recent Davos Forum to relaunch the WTO's Doha Round, Secretary-General Pascal Lamy was in Africa earlier this week and addressed the United Nations Environment Programme Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi.

Lamy delivered a message that agreements under the Doha Round are crucial to the future of the environment and warned that a failure of the Doha negotiations “would strengthen the hand of all those who argue that economic growth should proceed unchecked” without regard for the environment. He stressed that “trade, and indeed the WTO, must be made to deliver sustainable development”.

'UNEP's Governing Council meeting could not be more timely,' said Lamy. 'It comes in the wake of many serious warnings that we have received about climate change, and other environmental problems. It suffices to glance through the UNEP Global Environmental Outlook for 2007 to see the full scale of the challenge before us.'

'Sustainable development should be the cornerstone of our approach to globalization and to the global governance architecture that we create. If I have come to this forum, it is to deliver a message: the WTO stands ready to do its part.'

'When the WTO was established back in 1995, “sustainable development” was placed right at the heart of its founding charter. Governments vetoed the type of trade that is premised on the depletion of natural resources. Rather, they called for their “sustainable” use. They went further in their pledge to pursue a sustainable development path by launching environmental negotiations in the Doha Round. This is the first time in the history multilateral trade talks that such negotiations have been started.'

'Ladies and gentlemen, there are many different ways to look at globalization. Some see it as an economic phenomenon, driven by a greater flow of goods, services and capital between countries. In this definition, the WTO plays a central part. Others see it as a technological phenomenon, driven by the revolution that we have witnessed in information technology, and so on. The one certain element in all of this, is that the world has become inter-connected to a point, that today it is impossible for a country to live and prosper in isolation of the rest of the world.'

'Clearly, globalization is a phenomenon that requires careful management. By connecting people from opposite ends of the planet, globalization offers tremendous potential, but it can also have drawbacks. As goods, services and people cross borders, so does pollution for example. The management of globalization would allow us to capture its benefits, while leaving behind its downside. There is no doubt that the world needs more effective “global governance” — governance at a level that transcends national boundaries. Our institutions of global governance must therefore be strengthened. They must also be made to function as a more coherent whole. This applies to the WTO, and to all other international institutions, which should complement each other.'

'Trade, no doubt, leads to a more efficient allocation of resources on a global scale. However, for this efficient allocation to truly materialize, we all know that resources must be properly priced to start with — that externalities would have to be internalized. In today's world, our policies are not fully synchronized. Greater awareness of the need for this synchronization is, first and foremost, required of governments.'

'The Doha Round of trade negotiations contains a promise for the environment. A promise to allow for a more efficient allocation of resources — including natural ones — on a global scale through a continued reduction of obstacles to trade (tariffs and subsidies). But it also includes a promise to ensure greater harmony between the WTO and MEAs: a promise to tear down the barriers that stand in the way of trade in clean technologies and services; as well as a promise to reduce the environmentally harmful agricultural subsidies that are leading to overproduction and harmful fisheries subsidies which are encouraging over-fishing and depleting the world's fish stock.'

'The WTO needs the engagement of the environmental community in these negotiations. The engagement of environment ministers, of UNEP, of MEAs, and of civil society. As I said earlier, it is due, in large part, to the efforts of the environmental community that these negotiations have come about. But these efforts must be sustained, especially at this crucial phase of the Doha Round. As imperfect as the WTO may be, it continues to offer the only forum worldwide that is exclusively dedicated to discussing the relationship between trade and the environment. Through Doha Round, decisions on that relationship can finally be made, influencing the way that the relationship is shaped. I call upon the environmental community to support the environmental chapter of the Doha Round, and to provide its much needed contribution.'

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