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A Greener Fast Track: Putting Environmental Protection on the Trade Agenda

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John J. Audley provides the following specific policy proposals for U.S. negotiators: (1) Include the environment or sustainable development in overall trade policy objectives. This involves clarifying the role of the World Trade Organization and United Nations bodies such as UNCTAD, UNEP, and the UNDP in dealing with trade, environment, and development-related issues, including conciliation procedures and dispute settlement, and making proceedings more transparent and accountable to the public.

(2) Pursue explicit environment negotiation objectives. U.S. negotiators should seek to develop internationally agreed-upon rules and related multilateral agreements that will ensure reasonable national environmental and human health policies without disadvantaging U.S. companies competing in foreign markets. Possible approaches include providing behavioral incentives to promote compliance, offering a range of remedies, and designing programs to strengthen other countries' capacities to develop and implement their own high standards for environmental and human health protection.

(3) Secure congressional support for internalizing environmental considerations throughout negotiations. Federal regulatory agencies with technical expertise in environmental quality issues should be included in the trade policy-making process and should devote sufficient resources to such involvement. Moreover, environmental reviews should be elevated in trade policy development.

A broader strategy to promote environmental protection in a global society: As ambitious as these proposals are, Congress, the administration, and the interested public should not expect fast track procedures alone to bridge the gap between the potential benefits of trade and investment liberalization and environmental and development challenges. A more comprehensive strategy is needed to strengthen the capacity of U.S. trading partners to set and implement their own standards for human health and environmental protection. Audley urges President Bush and Congress to engage in a public debate on the merits of a broader environmental agenda and avoid a rush to secure a fast track vote.