Opening Address by David Anderson, Minister of the Environment, Canada
to the Hemispheric Trade and Sustainability Symposium, April 17, 2001,
Musée de la Civilisation, Quebec, Canada

(Prepared by Madeline Koch)

Sponsored by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, The World Conservation Union and the United Nations Environmental Programme http://www.iisd.org/trade/qc2001

Note: The following is a partial summary of the remarks given at the Hemispheric Trade and Sustainability Symposium. It is neither an official document nor a complete transcript, nor has it been checked against the speaker's text.

David Anderson
Minister of the Environment, Canada

I am happy to join Pierre Pettigrew at this symposium. He has unfortunately been delayed so I'm speaking first - and it is a nice opportunity for the minister of environment to speak before the minister of trade.

This symposium is a good moment to discuss the relationship between trade and the environment. According to recent polling done in Canada, this relationship should be discussed. May I congratulate you three chairs on creating a first-class agenda and to thank all of you for participating.

I will discuss three major points. First I will provide an update on the results of the environmental ministers meeting two and a half weeks ago in Montreal, from my point of view as chair of the meeting. Second, I'll outline Canadian perspectives on environment, sustainability and the process of hemispheric integration. Third, I'd like to discuss the paths forward and highlight the challenges to explore and continue to work on in the months and years again. ...

We must ensure that societies and partners create partnerships that are sustainable and solid. They need to open the door for a vast debate.

The ministers meeting recognized the need to establish the dialogue on the Americas, in particular identifying three themes: the challenge that the environment presents in the evolving [inaudible], public health, and biodiversity and ecosystems.

More specifically, the ministers expressed their commitment to work together on air quality, water and sanitation, and on minimizing the impact of natural disasters. They paid special attention to the environmental stresses involved in alleviating poverty, which for many countries in the hemisphere that is the first step. Countries such as Canada can play a role through technology transfers, capacity building and international advocacy. Maria Minna, the minister responsible for Canadian Development Agency, will talk later this week on capacity building, in particular about environmental degradation.

This was a very diverse group of ministers, from an eclectic group of countries. We discussed how we must concentrate on the fundamental questions facing these countries in developing an hemisphere-wide program for the environment. Transparency is particularly significant as citizens must be able to contribute easily to protecting their environment.

It is also important to remember that sustainable development is all about raising prosperity and raising the quality of life. These factors are critical in addressing the trade and environment, according to the environment ministers. They agreed that environmental considerations are not simply deadweight. They also agreed on the link between health and environment. The Pan American Health Organization will convene a regional meeting with environmental and health ministers to identify key challenges. Some of those challenges, such as water, were discussed at our meeting.

Understanding how environment improves human health is one of the best tools. Healthy ecosystems mean healthy people, which mean a healthy economy. Looking ahead, we need to build a sense community across the Americas by directing common concerns, and to find other concrete examples so we can indicate the path we intend to take on other issues that may perhaps be less clear.

One such concrete example is migratory birds, recognized as one area where real practical responses can achieve on-the-ground progress relatively quickly. Such action also crystallizes the concept of community and begins a process of constructive relationships on hemispheric basis.

Montreal was the first time the environmental ministers met, which itself represents a sound step forward.

A number of objectives were identified in the final communiqué. We delivered the message that policy coherence begins at home but must be extended, improved and clarified at the international level. There were 24 ministers at the Montreal meeting, out of the 34 states involved, and the ministers forwarded the recommendations to their leaders in preparation for the third Summit of the Americas.

As Canada's minister of environment, I have made it clear that liberalized trade is a key component of sustainable development. Our experience corroborates my position. We recognize that the FTAA must be sustainable socially and in terms of the environment. The Canada-Chile accord and the accord with Canada and Costa Rica, which will be signed next week, both recognize this in the context of liberalization of these exchanges. Parallel agreements also help.

These are some of the ideas and experiences that Canada and our free trade partners can bring to the challenge of hemispheric sustainable development. Like all countries we must avoid preconceived positions about best mechanisms. Regardless of whether we create an environmental side agreement to the FTAA or take another approach, we must achieve the same goal of strengthening the environmental regime across the hemisphere. We must never lose sight of the primary purpose of ensuring that robust environment practices are in place.

As we saw in Buenos Aires, at the trade ministers meeting and at the environmental ministers meeting, the FTAA process is creating an atmosphere in which good ideas receive attention they deserve. This is a unique opportunity to advance the agenda of sustainable development. All those who care about the environment should capitalize on this period of openness.

I congratulate my colleague, Minister Pierre Pettigrew, on announcing the release of the text of the FTAA. I'm glad the term "civil society" is given a broad meaning to include not only non-governmental organizations but also churches and the other organizations that are also a part of civil society. They play an effective role in the trade, environmental and sustainable development agendas. There will be more information to come about the FTAA agenda, but we need these kinds of discussions to make sure it is environmental and socially sustainable. I trust that all the members of this symposium, like the environmental ministers were in Montreal, will be forthright and imaginative and short on rhetoric. One thing came out clearly was the desire of colleagues from every part of the Americas to avoid the high-sounding resolutions of intention and to discuss the concrete measures for the betterment of the societies in which we all live. We are examining the relationships and looking for ways to enhance cooperation like never before.

This symposium is bringing together the ideas and resources of civil society, industry, academia, churches, hemispheric and regional institutions. It raises excellent questions that recognize the wide diversity of needs and issues across the hemisphere. I'm interested in hearing your opinions on how cooperation can be strengthened in support of a sustainable agenda for hemispheric cooperation.

How does investment support sustainable development in the Americas? How can we finance investment? How can industry take up the challenge? These are high priorities for every country of the Americas. I also attended the Americana 2001 conference last month and discovered some of the ways that private-sector organizations can be pioneers.

Thank you for this opportunity to report on the environment ministers meeting. We need to bring home the reality that sustainable economic development is the only solution to the environment and social challenges that face our hemisphere. I am confident that integration within the Americas will improve the natural environment and improve the quality of life. The importance of seizing the opportunity now at the outset of the process so we can maximize results.

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