WTO Fails to Foster Sustainable Development


WWW : http://www.envirolink.org/environews/ens/newsfeed/oct1196-02.html

WTO Fails to Foster Sustainable Development

Posted to the web: Fri Oct 11 17:23:25 EDT 1996

WINNIPEG, October 10, (ENS) - The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has released a scathing assessment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and sustainable development. The WTO assessment is an in-depth progress report in preparation for the WTO's first meeting of trade ministers in Singapore in December said David Runnalls, Director of the Trade Program at IISD.

"We conclude that the WTO has failed to integrate sustainable development concerns into trade policies, that the organization still conducts its business behind closed doors, and has been slow to develop relations with other organizations essential for its success," Runnalls said.

The report points out the need for immediate action, arguing that if the environment is not given more importance in the trade rules, consumers and environmentalists will take their grievances outside the system.

Since sustainable development is a cross-cutting issue affecting all of the work of the WTO, this report examines not only the work of the WTO Committee on Trade and the Environment, but that of the other WTO Councils and Committees.

The Report criticizes the WTO for its failure to evolve from its predecessor, the General Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade (GATT). "The dominant theme has been continuity from the GATT to the WTO," analyzed Runnells. "A culture of closed decision-making has persisted, inefficient internal structures have carried over without reflection, and the dispute settlement process still resembles the rules committee of a club.

"The Committee on Development has achieved nothing notable," Runnells concluded, "and the Committee on Trade and Environment may continue a record of futility which now dates back twenty-four years to the first creation of the abortive environment committee of the GATT."

The report recognizes that large economies such as the United States and the European Union have shown a tendency to take unilateral actions when they feel the formal trading system does not respond to their priorities. Runnalls sees a strong potential for alliances between frustrated environmental groups and protectionists on issues such as the trade in forest products.

The World Trade Organization was created as a result of the Uruguay Round of Trade Negotiations just over two years ago and this Report is critical of its ineffectiveness in linking the issues of sustainable development and trade liberalization. With the WTO hosting its first meeting of trade ministers in Singapore in December this year, Runnalls said, "It is critithat the Singapore Ministerial address these limitations of the WTO."

Three assessment documents are available in hard copy from the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and on-line at IISDnet: http://iisd1.iisd.ca/ A four page executive summary, a thirty-four page summary assessment and the full Assessment Report can be viewed and down-loaded on-line.

Head-quartered in Winnipeg, IISD's mission is to promote sustainable development in decision making internationally and within Canada. To be sustainable, development must improve economic efficiency, protect and restore ecological systems and enhance the well-being of people. The IISD defines its work as contributing new knowledge and concepts, analyzing policies, identifying disseminating information about best practices, demonstrating how to measure progress, and building partnerships to amplify these messages.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development was established in 1990 with continuing financial support from Environment Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Province of Manitoba. It also receives revenue from foundations and other private sector sources.

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Ron E. Mader, Publisher
El Planeta Platica: Eco Travels in Latin America
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