Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements


Sharing experience on environmental reviews

Environmental reviews of trade negotiations are part of the Trade and environment Committee’s work. Their importance was confirmed in the 2001 Doha Ministerial Declaration, which encourages governments to share their expertise and experience with other members who wish to perform the reviews.

These are some of the experiences that have been shared in the committee:

Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
See also
> Environmental reviews
> The Trade and Environment Committee

Canada: environmental assessment framework for trade negotiations  back to top

The government of Canada adopted a process that requires interdepartmental coordination and external consultations to carry out environmental assessments (EAs). This exercise began in early 1999 in response to a commitment to assess the domestic environmental implications of the WTO Doha Round of trade negotiations, and was subsequently broadened to apply to bilateral and regional negotiations. There are three phases of assessment that correspond to progress within the negotiations: initial, draft, and final environmental assessment.

One of the key objectives of the environmental assessment framework is to provide a means to integrate environmental concerns into the negotiating process. The methodology requires identification of economic effects of the negotiation and likely related environmental impacts. Environmental impacts are then assessed for their significance. The framework recognizes that economic and environmental effects can relate to changes in the level and pattern of economic activity, the type of products traded, technology changes, as well as regulatory and policy implications. One other key objective is to address public concerns by documenting how the environment is taken into consideration during negotiations. There is a commitment to communicate and consult throughout each environmental assessment that includes engagement with the provinces and territories, experts and the public.

See also:

Trade and Environment Committee documents
Canadian government’s material

United States: environmental review (ER)  back to top

The US experience with conducting environmental reviews goes back to the 1992 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) report on environmental issues. In 1999, the United States began conducting formal environmental reviews of trade negotiations. Since then, in addition to the WTO Doha Round of negotiations, reviews have been conducted for bilateral and regional trade negotiations. The purpose of these reviews is to help identify potential environmental effects of trade agreements, both positive and negative, in order to facilitate responses to such effects throughout the negotiation and implementation processes. The framework usually contains three components: a determination of the scope that the environmental review will take; an estimation of the economic and regulatory effects of the proposed trade agreement; and estimates of the subsequent environmental impacts. Throughout the review process, a commitment is made for intergovernmental and public participation.

The methodology for conducting environmental reviews is still evolving. In 2002, the US initiated an environmental reviews of the Doha Development Agenda negotiations by a publication in the Federal Register, requesting public comments on the scope for the review. This notice also requested views on the potential environmental aspects of the negotiations. In 2005, the third of such outreach efforts was made, calling for comments.

See also:

Trade and Environment Committee documents
US government’s material

European Union: trade sustainability impact assessment (SIA)  back to top

A trade sustainability impact assessment is a form of pre-emptive research undertaken during a trade negotiation. The idea is to identify the potential economic, social and environmental impacts of any given trade agreement. The studies look at the potential effects both in the EU and in the countries or regions with which the EU is conducting negotiations. By informing negotiators of the possible effects, the research can help policy-makers and trade negotiators to integrate sustainability into trade policy more effectively. Trade sustainability impact assessments can also provide material for the design of possible accompanying measures to maximise positive impacts of an agreement and to reduce any negative impacts.

The methodology for these impact assessments is constantly reviewed to ensure trade policy is designed in a way that meets the requirements of good governance. Trade sustainability impact assessment studies are carried out by independent external consultants. As they are carried out by consultants, the studies do not engage the European Commission, but the Commission does draft a paper setting out its reactions to each study. In the interest of transparency, all studies, reports and papers are published and are at the disposal of stakeholders. A procedure for consultation and dialogue with stakeholders has been set up both from within the EU and from the countries or regions with which it is conducting trade negotiations.

The first trade sustainability impact assessment was launched in 1999 in anticipation of the WTO Doha Round negotiations. Since then, such assessments have been enshrined in the EU’s broader commitment to sustainable development. Currently, trade sustainability impact assessments have been carried out for the WTO Doha Development Agenda negotiations (e.g. on the sectors of agriculture, forests and distribution services) as well as bilateral and regional negotiations. In 2006, the EU Commission hosted a Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment Stocktaking Seminar to further improve the methodology used in the impact assessments, and to discuss the challenges of integrating the results into the process of formulating trade policy.

See also:

Trade and Environment Committee documents
EU Commission’s material

Documents  back to top

2003 report to the Cancún Ministerial Conference: Trade and Environment Committee’s report on sharing experiences