Striking a balance

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

IN THE run-up to the first ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization' (WTO) in Singapore in December 1996, the European Commission has prepared guidelines to promote world rules on trade and environment. Endorsing an open multilateral trading system, the communication says that it allows for a more efficient use of natural resources and helps to reduce demands on the environment. The us $250 billion annual market for green technology is growing at eight per cent a year. According to a survey conducted in 1995, nearly 67 per cent of European Union (EU) citizens were ready to buy 'green' products, even at a higher price.

The Commission pointed out that environmental costs are not a decisive factor for industries: they represent only one to two per cent of overall production costs in the EU. It has also called for non -discriminatory domestic environmental rules which would avoid protectionism in disguise.

The communication lays stress on the need to frame better environmental policies and sustainable development strategies to fully realise the benefits of trade liberalisation policies. The Commission has proposed that the EU should encourage environmental improvements in developing countries through market premiums or preferential access, instead of penalising those with lower standards by using ecoduties. It has also called for the inclusion of multilateral environment agreements such as the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion and the Basel convention on toxic waste, by the WTO within the trade measures of the multilateral trading system.

The need to plug the loopholes in regulations that might increase developing countries' fears of turning into a dumping ground for hazardous substances prohibited in the western countries, has also been highlighted by the Commission.

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