Press release

Chairs of the Hemispheric Trade and Sustainability Symposium to Release a Policy Statement on the FTAA and Sustainable Development

April 16, 2001

Document urges heads of States to break the "Seattle Syndrome"

WINNIPEG — In their capacity as Chairs of the Hemispheric Trade and Sustainability Symposium, Pierre Marc Johnson, former Premier of the Province of Quebec and Counsel at Heenan Blaikie, David Runnalls, President and CEO of the International Institute for Sustainable Development, and Enrique Leff from the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean will release a policy statement entitled: The FTAA and Hemispheric Integration - Building a Triple-Win Strategy for Trade and Sustainability in the Hemisphere.

A zero-sum relationship has gradually developed between a growing part of civil society and trade and economic international forums and processes since the Seattle events. Mr. Johnson, Leff, and Runnalls believe that the Quebec Summit is a unique occasion to break this Seattle Syndrome. Indeed, the Summit of the Americas constitutes a very important forum where trade, social, and environmental policy can be integrated into a coherent and integrated strategy. By adopting the proposed strategy, countries of the hemisphere would do much to renew public support for trade liberalisation and economic integration in the Americas.

The policy statement, which will be presented to delegations at the Summit of the Americas, calls countries of the hemisphere to address the sustainability issues that are related to the FTAA by making a strong commitment toward the implementation of an integrated strategy in the field of trade and environment. The strategy rests on three pillars:

  • Build an environmentally-sound FTAA through the incorporation of a series of environmental provisions in the text of the Agreement.
  • Strengthen environmental cooperation in the Americas, especially in trade-sensitive or trade-related sectors.
  • Strengthen dialogue with civil society by creating a High Level Hemispheric Experts Group on Trade and Sustainability

The statement proposes to adopt a positive strategy on trade and environmental issues by identifying policies that can benefit trade liberalisation, social development, and the protection of the environment. It also suggest key areas for policy action, and means to strengthen the hemispheric framework for environmental cooperation. It is proposed to create an Americas Ecological Accord to integrate environmental policies, institutions, and instruments in the hemisphere. Special attention is also given to the key role of Sub-regional institutions such as the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

The coordination of trade and environment policy remains a considerable challenge, especially at the hemispheric level. The Policy statement proposes the creation of a High Level Hemispheric Experts Group on Trade and Sustainability to act as a bridging mechanism between the trade and environment communities. The Experts Group should report to the FTAA Trade Negotiations Committee and to various environmental processes in the Americas.

The policy statement will be available at the press conference or on the symposium website:.

Acronyms used:

IISD: International Institute for Sustainable Development
IUCN: The World Conservation Union
UNEP/ROLAC: United Nations Environmental Programme | Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
NACEC: North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation
NRTEE: National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy

The Hemispheric Trade and Sustainability Symposium gathered 200 experts from the Americas from April 17 to 19, 2001 in Quebec City. The Symposium was organised jointly by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, IUCN, the World Conservation Union, and the United Nations Environment Programme - Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. Partner institutions included the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy.

Highlights of the Policy Statement

By identifying and developing provisions that are consistent with both a trade liberalisation and a sustainability agenda, the FTAA can deliver an important piece of the structural paradigm shift to sustainable development.

Until now, FTAA negotiations have been unable to address the contentious issue of trade policy as it relates to environmental and social policy. This situation has much to do with fears, mostly in Latin America, that environmental provisions in the FTAA would be used by Canada and the United States to justify protectionist measures.

An ex ante FTAA sustainability impact assessment process, or five sub-regional processes, should also be established to orient negotiations in the next four years.

The agreement should adopt a pollution havens clause that rejects the lowering of environmental standards as a method for attracting investment. In addition, investment provisions designed to guarantee investor rights should do so without being detrimental to environmental regulations (as has been recently the case with NAFTA's Chapter 11).

There are over 272 environment and sustainable development accords in the Americas, which currently use measures relating to trade to achieve their goals. This system of interacting international accords lacks coherence and structure.

It is our proposal that a new 'Americas Ecological Accord' (AEA) could act as an international legal and policy coordination body for this environmental agenda.

The strengthening of sanitary and phytosanitary systems should also become a priority, in light of recent epizooties. Biosafety should also become a priority as trade and economic integration multiply the risks associated with the dissemination of invasive species and genetically modified organisms.

It is recommended that a High Level Experts Group be established with appropriate participation from hemispheric institutions such as the OAS, ECLAC, the IDB, and FTAA Secretariat, and sub-regional organisations such as UNEP-ROLAC, NACEC and others. Government, industry, and civil society experts should also be adequately represented.

The Summit of the Americas is a unique forum where trade and environment policies can be integrated in a coherent set of priorities. As the FTAA process is entering a crucial development period, the Quebec City Summit constitutes a critical occasion to reintegrate trade and environmental policies in a coherent package.

The Quebec City Summit also has the opportunity to send a clear signal that the time has come to move beyond zero-sum thinking in trade and environment policy by announcing the intention of the countries of the Americas to address these questions through cooperation channels rather than through the traditional conflicting trio: sanctions - competitiveness - protectionism.

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.