UN environment agency seeks synergies between trade and environment rules

UN environment agency seeks synergies between trade and environment rules

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) convened a one-day meeting in Geneva today to identify steps for ensuring that global trade rules and international environmental treaties become fully compatible.

"Next year's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg offers a major opportunity for world leaders to promote a constructive relationship between our global systems of economic and environmental governance," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. "Efforts to strengthen cooperation between environmental agreements and the World Trade Organization (WTO) are vital to building a world economy that can deliver sustainable development."

A key topic at the meeting is the relationship between the compliance and dispute settlement systems of the legally-binding trade and environment regimes, which use different tools to ensure that their rules are respected. In addition, environment treaties tend to first rely on measures such as financial and technical assistance to facilitate compliance, and then seek to resolve disputes through conciliation and arbitration procedures. The WTO, however, relies more on binding judicial procedures.

The UNEP meeting seeks to generate concrete and practical recommendations to promote coherence between the environmental agreements and the WTO, in ways that strengthen implementation of both. A strong focus on potential synergies between trade and environment will help build trust and understanding on these issues between developed and developing countries and among the various policy communities.

Timed to contribute to the debate at the 27-28 June meeting of the WTO's Committee on Trade and Environment, the meeting brought together officials from Governments, UNEP, WTO, and key multilateral environmental agreements.