EnviReform Website, University of Toronto


The Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference
Cancún, Mexico from 10 to 14 September 2003

EnviReform: Strengthening Canada's Environmental Community through International Regime Reform:
Exploring Social Cohesion in a Globalizing Era

Daily Reports (see reports from other days by clicking here)

Friday September 12, 2003

Trade and Environment at Cancun.Daniella Aburto, G8 Research Group

As anxiety and perhaps frustration are building in this “running out of time” round of negotiations at Cancun, trade and environment seem to be one of the few areas that will produce an agreement. Most of the facilitators of the five working groups repeated statements that they were “making progress but lacking concensus” in the final WTO briefing. In this context, the announcements made by facilitator Clement Rohee, from the working group on “other issues” (which included the environment), were refreshing. Members were close to a consensus on inviting multilateral environmental agencies to be part of the Trade and Environment Committee, and on paragraph 19 of the Doha Declaration (which covers patenting of animals and plants, the Convention on Biological Diversity and traditional knowledge). Although eco-labelling is now part of the discussions, this particular issue has proven more difficult. A preliminary text on the results of the negotiations is expected to be released at noon on September 13.

As reported on September 11, environmental issues and sustainable development have maintained a strong momentum in the alternative forums. The Cancun Trade and Development Symposium, organized by the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development and el Colegio de Mexico, has been a productive opportunity to exchange substantiated perspectives on liberalization as a means to sustainable development. The forum became a place for ideas to converge among ministers, scholars, representatives from concerned organizations and the public at large. Issues such as how investment and trade can represent development in practice were explored and contrasted with Doha’s mandate and real achievements. The presenters agreed that Cancun’s objectives were watered-down versions of what was originally intended at Doha and that were not nearly sufficient to deliver a liberalization process that could become a tool for sustainable development. Some of the analysis centred on a pledge for the WTO liberalization process to match investment and trade rights with responsabilities. Specifically, representatives from Latin American countries believe that the WTO should not concentrate on establishing a link between trade and environment, which only marginally considers environmental concerns to be integrated into a system of liberalization, but rather for WTO process to deliver a strategy for sustainable development to be enhanced by trade. Latin American countries are particularly concerned about unstable growth, increased unemployment rates, polarization within their socioeconomic structures, decreased domestic investment and lower environmental standards.

As a final note, environment groups such as Greenpeace and Global Exchange have openly expressed their concern and opposition to a corporate agenda that they believe draws the developed countries negotiations. “What we’re looking at is a raft of laws that will make it illegal for nations to pass any legislation that might in any way jeopardise the profits of the world’s biggest companies. If the U.S. and the EU have their way, countries will not be able to protect their environments, workers, fledging industries or basic standards against the multinationals without risking punitive WTO action,” said Zac Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist in a statement.

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