HL Deb 10 April 2001 vol 624 cc79-80WA
Lord Judd

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to ensure that multilateral environmental agreements are fully reflected in the policies of the World Trade Organisation and all other international trade rules; and to ensure that the Uruguay trade round agreements and any future trade rounds and liberalisation measures are entirely consistent with a sustainable global environment. [H L1227]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville

Her Majesty's Government's objective is to ensure that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is seen to contribute to sustainable development, as enshrined in the founding agreement of the WTO. We do this through pressing for sustainable market access liberalisation and ensuring coherence between WTO and global environmental governance. Where necessary we seek to clarify WTO rules to support legitimate environmental regulation while ruling out unwarranted protectionism.

We and our European partners are committed to launching a new trade round. A new round will strengthen the global economy and help raise living standards in developing countries. A key part of the EU's and UK's approach is that a new round must support global sustainable development. This means it must have an environmental dimension.

We want to maximise the `win-win' potential of trade liberalisation where there are positive environmental impacts. Where there are negative impacts, we are pressing to eliminate perverse subsidies which are both trade-distorting and environmentally damaging. Agriculture and fisheries are two key areas where we will pursue this approach.

We also want to see WTO rules clarified in two key areas so that legitimate environmental policy is not undermined. The interface between WTO rules and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) must be addressed to prevent friction between two major bodies of international law. The legitimacy of voluntary environmental labelling schemes must be recognised. We take seriously the concerns of developing countries about "eco-protectionism" and we are working actively with our EU colleagues to ensure that these concerns are addressed.

We take part, through the EU, in the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment established by the Uruguay round and use this committee to engage in active dialogue with developing countries and others on clarifying the relationship between MEAs and WTO rules. We also take every opportunity to use appropriate bilateral meetings to press arguments in favour of ensuring that MEAs are fully reflected in the policies of the WTO.