Before we begin this session, I'd like to give you some brief reflections and remarks, to acquaint you with what the Joint Public Advisory Committee of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation and our workshop today. The CEC was created by Canada, U.S. and Mexico as part of the co-operation agreement known as the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC), NAFTA's parallel agreement the environment. Basically, the CEC deals with environmental issues common to Mexico, U.S. and Canada, to meet challenges and opportunities stemming precisely from trade. As part of the CEC, there is the JPAC, which is composed of15 citizens, five from each country, who are all volunteers who receive no payment or compensation for this work. We are freelancers independent from our governments, and we provide advice to the ministers of the commission, the three secretariats in the environmental agencies. We also project the comments, opinions, observations from the public and citizens about any issues related to the agreement. The JPAC provides information that may be important at a given time for the secretariat in preparing a file. This committee seeks to promote, along with other bodies of the commission, the trinational process to protect ecosystems and achieve sustainable development, and for us to have sustainable economic plans. Also we need to seek social and public participation, and not just that but also transparency about whatever the commission is doing. The JPAC works on consensus. Obviously we don't always reach the agreements we would like, but these operations and tasks are performed individually, on our own.
I would also like to say that it is very important to carry out the workshops such as today's because part of the what the joint committee looks for is your contribution - all your concerns will be reflected in the report we will make to the ministers. These recommendations are normally made after these meetings. After this workshop, the working group on chapter 11 is going to prepare a draft proposal of recommendations for the council, which will be discussed among the JPAC on Thursday, and which will produce the report. That's why your comments and concerns today are important. The working group on chapter 11 comprises a member from Canada, myself both from Mexico, and Patricia Clarey from the U.S. She's the new member from the U.S. who just came on board. As soon as we're done with this workshop, we will draft a proposal that we will discuss on Thursday.
JPAC meets four times a year, in alternating countries, not just meeting among ourselves but also with the public and the council of ministers. The ministerial meetings are typically held in June, this year in Washington on June 23-25.
Going into the issues related to today's workshop, it is important to make you aware that JPAC prepared a couple of recommendations in 2002 for the council of ministers on chapter 11, and also held a workshop in Ottawa last summer. The ministers received a set of recommendations on the issues that came out of this workshop and dealt with being able to sponsor contributions from citizens and transparency and everything dealing with environmental ministers. All this related to article 16. Also there was an exhortation of officers to meet publicly and analyze some of the concerns that came up with regard to chapter 11. In response, a final recommendation was provided in December 2002 for the council to entrust the secretariat to publish the latest summary on the website, as well as future summaries as they may relate to the meetings of the group of officers connected to environment and trade, which is related to Article 16. Another agreement was to seek consultation with the public whenever the working group of officers of article 16 meet to meet with JPAC. The first meeting ever will be held on March 26 here in Mexico. Likewise, as related to the group of experts on chapter 11, headed by our counterparts of the trade commission, the CEC will continue to analyze the ideas for the agenda and results foreseen and what might be the best time to hold a ministerial meeting.
JPAC is interested in holding this workshop due to a few specific topics that deal with the interpretation of chapter 11. What are the pros and cons of investment agreements, issues related to expropriation, nondiscrimination, requirements for performance, everything dealing with transparency, legitimacy, accountability - several topics are reason for concern for JPAC in recent years, also of concern for the public - we have heard from you, the public, and these concerns have been brought up to the council of ministers.
I would like to begin this session, inviting Aaron Cosbey, who represents the International Institute for Sustainable Development. He will give us a presentation based on a discussion document prepared for this workshop. After, we will begin an interactive session, the idea being the committee members who have concerns or questions to express them and then ask you to do the same - express any questions you might have and we can have an interactive session on this topic. At the end of the day I shall provide a brief summary on what has been said, and tomorrow as well we will have a chance to have a broader presentation at the workshop dedicated to the environmental effects of NAFTA on Tuesday and Wednesday. It is important to know that this workshop is being taped, and notes are being taken, and a summary will be published on the website of the commission, so all this information will be available for the public in general.
Aaron has a lot of concerns that the committee has expressed, and he will talk about appropriation, international minimum standards, transparency and accountability, and so on. Thank you.