Office of the United States Trade Representative


Transcript of USTR Zoellick after TEPAC Meeting

September 9, 2003

I want to thank all of you for coming today. I just came from a meeting that I had with one of our advisory committees. This is our Trade and Environment Policy Committee. It is a private sector advisory group that we have. These advisory groups are set up by the Congress by law, and we have been very delighted because our environmental group has been one of the most active working with us. It includes members of civil society, private sector, business, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], academia. We rely on these groups to help us in a number of ways. One is to give us some counsel and advise as we go through the process of negotiating various agreements. And also to help us try to figure out some new ways to try to connect trade and growth with better environmental conditions in the United States, but also with our trade partners.

We found, as in a number of areas of our trade negotiations, that some of our work with individual countries or small regions really provides laboratories for us to try to advance the state of work in some of these cooperative areas, and this has been particularly true in the environmental area with our free trade agreements. As probably most of you are aware, as part of our negotiations of free trade agreements, we actually set various environmental objectives and have various provisions for the enforcement of those obligations. But we also try to promote some companion elements, some of the agreements we do with the State Department or others, to try to focus on cooperative aspects. And then we also try to connect this with some of the capacity-building aspects where we get help from AID [U.S. Agency for International Development] and others, in some cases to try to fund those efforts, whether they be related to environment projects or whether they be related to civic society participation or other elements.

Now, obviously, most of our focus here is part of the Doha development agenda. A step forward in this is trying to strengthen the network between the WTO [World Trade Organization] and the multilateral environmental agreements, or the MEA's, which have secretariats. And so one of the issues to be discussed here will be the informal relationship that's developed. And just to give you a sense of how our advisory committee process helps us, we had been in touch closely with a number of the environmental secretariats in Geneva explaining some of the flaws and formalities of the current interactions and we talked about some ways to try to fix that.

A second topic that will be part of the Doha negotiations and part of our discussions here will be the role of fish subsidies, because obviously over fishing is bad economic policy and it is also very bad environmental policy. And we're pleased that over the past couple of years changes in the European Union have led the European Union to join us in a major effort along with the Friends of Fish to try to prevent over fishing, which is bad for the stocks as well as for the economics.

And another element that we want to try to emphasize in the text is the focus on environmental goods and services, to lower tariffs on some of the environmental goods and services. This obviously helps boost trade but also can help lower the costs of environmental protection and promotion.

Now, one other thing that we do with our environmental advisory committees is refine the process of environmental reviews. This is another concept that the United States has invited other countries to consider as a way of strengthening the nexus between environment and trade. So the United States does environmental reviews with each of our trade agreements. These are a rolling process and they give us a guide to some elements that we can try to do either in the trade agreement or ancillary to the trade agreement. Just to give you an example of what this means in practical terms, we've had an interim environmental review of a trade agreement that we are doing with the five countries of Central America?and in fact it is posted on our website for those of you that are interested in it. This identifies some particular environmental/economic challenges of this trade agreement, focusing on topics like migratory birds, since a number of the countries in Central America are sort of major, not only nesting but transit sites between North and South America. Wildlife conservation. Also marine pollution. And so we hope as we move forward with that agreement to try to link it to a cooperative mechanism.

Today, one of the things I am pleased with is that we have one of the countries that we just completed a trade agreement with, Singapore, to talk a little bit from Singapore's perspective about some of the cooperative mechanisms that we are trying to develop in the environmental area. Singapore already has some very strong environmental policies, so much of this is related to things we can do, actually, in the region. As many of you know, or may not know, even though Singapore is a very small country, it actually still has a rain forest that was preserved, in Bukit Timah, as I recall.

And so there are aspects where we can not only work with one another, but also promote some things regionally.

What I also want to announce today is that because we believe that over the next couple of days we will move forward the Doha negotiations, as part of this environmental review process we will be putting out a Federal Register notice right after these negotiations inviting public comment for our Doha agenda environmental review on the developments of this stage of work. So we already have an ongoing environmental review, but as we hope to narrow and refine the issues, we would like to get public comment on ideas on these negotiations?how they affect the environment of the United States and others -- with the goal of trying to complete the interim environmental review by early in the course of 2004.

So I was very pleased that my former colleague, Nao Matsukata, agreed to chair this group. I will let him introduce the panel. I also want to make sure that I have a particular opportunity here to introduce Mark Linscott, who has recently been promoted to be our Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Environment, and helps us work on these issues from the FTA [Free Trade Agreement] moreover. And also Pat Forkan, from the Humane Society of the United States, who has been a very good partner with us, and she can give in greater detail examples of some of the things where, frankly, in Central America but elsewhere the Humane Society is not only helping us work on projects related to transparency, but ways where people can take advantage of consumer interests in different treatment of animal husbandry in a way that adds a value-added product but also creates jobs and opportunities in some of the developing countries.

So I want to thank all of the panelists for joining us. I apologize for having to run, but it's kind of a busy time. For of those of you in the press, since I see some of you, as you know, I have a press conference a little bit later today. So, thank you very much.

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