US says EU stance on environment threatens WTO talks

World Environment News, Planet Ark, November 8, 2002

NEW YORK - U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick this week warned the European Union that its desire to link international environmental agreements to the rules for free trade threatened progress in world trade negotiations.

"If Europe keeps pushing things in the environmental area that look threatening to the developing world we're not going to be able to move forward on this thing," Zoellick told the Council on Foreign Relations.

His comments came during a joint question-and-answer session with EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy.

Lamy told the foreign policy audience that the EU was pushing for language to clarify how multilateral environmental agreements interact with World Trade Organization rules.

"We Europeans feel these two things should be on the same footing," Lamy said. "If it were only a European view I would say environment should trump trade rules, but since we live on the same planet I would say they have to be on the same footing."

Developing countries are generally wary of any attempt by rich countries to insert environmental issues into trade agreements. They fear the measures could be used by the developed countries as an excuse to block their products.

Despite Zoellick's concern about the EU position, the Bush administration also faces some pressure at home to include both labor and environmental concerns in trade agreements.

Meanwhile, Zoellick said the United States would present "an aggressive proposal" later this year for reducing trade barriers for non-agricultural goods.

Many developing countries that want increased access to the U.S. textile market are keenly waiting to see what the United States will propose in that area.

WTO members launched a new round of world trade talks a year ago this month in Doha, Qatar, with the goal of finishing by January 2005.

After their remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations, Lamy and Zoellick met privately to discuss progress in the round and a long list of bilateral trade disputes.

Lamy will visit Chicago yesterday and Friday for the annual meeting of the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialouge.

The group is comprised of leading businesses from both Europe and the United States.

Story Date: 8/11/2002

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