Trade tactics

Imposing environmental trade sanctions on the South will not help, note experts

Published: Friday 15 December 2000

the Southern perspective on the linkage between trade and environment, which has resulted in some conflicts between developed and developing countries, is moving from mere protests to more proactive proposals. Several South Asian countries are making serious attempts to consolidate their positions on how the link between environment and trade actually could work against efforts to improve environmental standards.

Several experts from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh attempted to facilitate the Southern viewpoint at a workshop on South Asian trade and environment organised by the New Delhi-based Research and Information System for the Non-aligned and Other Developing Countries ( ris ).

The meeting highlighted the key point that environmental improvement in South Asia depends on economic development. T R Manoharan, research associate, ris , says current development models show that there is a strong link between environment and per capita income. For instance, economies with per capita income below us $1,000 experience the worst levels of ecodegradation, while those with per capita income above us $10,000 have a high standard of ecoprotection.

While improving environmental standards in South Asia appear be linked to further economic development, Northern trade policies take away the vital environmental space needed for this progress, pointed out experts. If the North continued its practice of imposing environment-related trade restrictions, the result would be a significant negative impact on South Asia's growth prospects. Currently, 63 per cent of South Asia's exports go to industrialised countries. Environmental trade restrictions would reduce South Asia's capacity to improve ecostandards, the experts felt. Research on this issue has confirmed that higher ecostandards in developed countries have had a significant negative impact on the South Asia's trade prospects.

Besides, the meeting pointed out that improvement in environmental standards in developing countries largely depends on the availability of cleaner technologies. The North has been 'unfair' in demanding higher environmental standards, at the same time making the necessary technology expensive, said Atul Kaushik of the Union ministry of commerce. Though this issue has been discussed at length in every international environmental negotiation, promises of access to better technology "has not been fulfilled at the desired level" by industrialised nations, noted Manoharan.

The workshop, which is the first of two, is part of a project on "The Impact of Enhancing Environmental Standards on International Trade of South Asian Countries", which is an effort to understand the relationship between environmental standards, trade and the South's development. The results of the ris project will be used by the g -77 in future un negotiations.

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