The environment chapter of the U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement contains groundbreaking elements that were first outlined on May 10, 2007 in a Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy. South Korea has already demonstrated a significant commitment to environmental protections. Under the agreement, the South Korean government’s environmental commitments will be held to the same level of accountability as other commitments in the agreement, such as market access and intellectual property protection.
The agreement’s environmental commitments require both countries not only to maintain current levels of environmental protection at home, but to strive for higher environmental standards. In particular, both the United States and South Korea commit not to weaken existing environmental laws or to reduce environmental protections in any way that will give domestic producers an advantage over the other country’s exporters – and both commit to effective enforcement of their respective environmental laws.
The United States and South Korea are already parties to seven international environmental agreements that seek to protect threatened and endangered species, protect the ozone layer, conserve fisheries, and protect whales. The U.S.-South Korea agreement requires both countries to live up to these commitments, and establishes a formal dispute settlement process within the bilateral agreement to ensure that each country is accountable for its commitments.
The landmark, bipartisan May 10, 2007 Bipartisan Agreement on Trade Policy benefited greatly from the input of American environmental groups. Likewise, the U.S.-South Korea agreement ensures that civil society can continue to share its perspective on whether the agreement’s environmental commitments are being met and also how to improve practices as the agreement is implemented. Both the United States and South Korea will set up a formal mechanism for interested stakeholders to submit their views on implementation of the agreement’s environment chapter. The United States and South Korea will also establish an Environmental Affairs Council of senior-level staff to oversee implementation of the environmental chapter and to involve the public in its work.