In addition, the US government has drawn up a set of guidelines on trade and the environment to be taken into account by negotiators at the forthcoming WTO trade talks in Seattle.

Under the terms of the executive order, the US will assess environmental considerations when developing trade negotiating objectives. In certain instances this may call for written environmental reviews with input from the public and from outside experts.

The executive order stipulates that trade agreements should contribute to sustainable development. Environmental reviews will be used to help identify the potential environmental effects of trade agreements, and to help draw up responses to those effects during negotiations.

The United States Trade Representative and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality will oversee the implementation of the executive order. The Trade Representative will conduct the environmental reviews of the agreements including:

  • comprehensive multilateral trade rounds
  • bilateral or plurilateral free trade agreements
  • major new trade liberalisation agreements in natural resource sectors.

Most sectoral liberalisation agreements will not require an environmental review.

“I believe that a strong economy and a clean environment go hand-in-hand around the world. And America can and should use its trade policy to strengthen environmental protection both at home and abroad,” Al Gore said in a statement.

Gore also outlined a broader strategy for ensuring that in the upcoming WTO talks, the US promotes higher environmental standards as it enters foreign markets.

The guidelines include:

  • working to end subsidies that promote over-fishing
  • public consultation in trade matters and
  • the elimination of barriers to clean technologies

Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund welcomed the executive order as progress toward openness in setting trade policy, but criticised the Clinton Administration for not committing itself to conducting a review of the existing WTO rules. “In this way, it has fallen far short,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “The WTO rules should be reformed so that it will not jeopardise strong health and environmental standards.”

Environmental groups are calling on the Clinton Administration to reform the WTO so that individual nations can maintain:

  • Labelling of environmentally friendly goods.
  • Restrictions on logging, fishing, and production.
  • Standards that use the precautionary principle to protect health and the environment.
  • The use of government finances to protect the environment.

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