the circle

Josette S. Shiner
says that trade, environmental stewardship and economic development are mutually supportive goals

The United States is committed to expanding the circle of nations that benefit from global trade. From Seoul to Santiago, trade has proven to be an essential steppingstone out of poverty and a win for freedom, opportunity and the environment. Recent history has demonstrated the positive linkage between trade, development, environmental quality and rising standards of living.

The Bush administration believes that free trade and environmental improvements can be mutually supportive. The Trade Act of 2002, which President Bush signed last August, incorporates a balanced set of environmental objectives: to ensure a level playing field for the United States through effective enforcement of our trading partners’ environmental laws; to guard against the use of environmental standards for protectionist purposes; and to help developing country trading partners build their environmental protection capacity through cooperative mechanisms.

We will be pursuing these objectives in each of our free trade agreements (FTA), including the Singapore FTA that US Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick is close to finalizing and our just completed negotiations with Chile. Environmental issues are likewise an important part of the Doha Development Agenda. Within this World Trade Organization (WTO) mandate, the United States is seeking to identify initiatives that enhance the natural symbiosis between trade and environmental policies.

Environmental technologies
A good example is our effort to negotiate new disciplines on subsidies that contribute to overcapacity in the global fishing industry, leading to depletion of global fishing stocks. We are also pressing for increased market access for environmental technologies, thereby helping US exporters while giving importing countries access to the full range of cutting-edge technologies. And we are exploring new avenues to increase cooperation between the WTO and secretariats responsible for trade-related multilateral environmental agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes.

In addition, environmental reviews of trade negotiations have become an important part of our process. These reviews provide us with valuable information on trade agreements’ likely environmental impacts, both positive and negative, which helps in developing our negotiating objectives and identifying appropriate policy responses.

Review and assessment
The environmental reviews for the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the Doha Development Agenda are already underway. We are conducting similar assessments for our FTA negotiations with countries such as Chile and Singapore. We are working closely with many departments and agencies to ensure that our approach to reviews is sound and to encourage and support other countries to conduct their own studies.

The United States also continues to fund programmes that make a positive impact through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and through multilateral institutions such as the World Bank. USAID is giving money to non-governmental organizations to work with governments and civil society to build capacity for conducting environmental assessments of trade agreements and other environmental protection goals. For example, in Brazil, USAID supports a Renewable Energy Organizations Network; in Central Asia, US contributions support a Replicable Waste Minimization Program.

Mutually supportive goals
Most importantly, as the United States builds opportunity through trade agreements, we help demonstrate that trade, environmental stewardship, and economic development are and can be mutually supportive goals. Our programme of trade liberalization is designed to create new economic opportunities throughout the world, especially in developing nations where fragile economies are just beginning to blossom. We want citizens of developing and developed countries to understand the important chain of events linking trade, development, environmental quality, and a rising standard of living.

The benefits of trade touch the lives of workers and families around the globe. The more we expand trading networks with other nations, the more opportunities, better jobs, and economic growth we create. In November 2001, the United States played a key role in launching a new global round of trade liberalization negotiations as part of the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda. These negotiations will open markets around the globe, with special emphasis on creating new export opportunities in agriculture, manufacturing and services.
Elimination of barriers to trade could lift 300 million people out of poverty
The United States has already tabled substantial proposals to free up trade in services and agriculture; inject greater transparency into WTO procedures including dispute settlements; allow poor countries to gain greater access to drugs needed to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other public health crises; and remove tariffs on all industrial and consumer goods by 2015. The United States also is pursuing free trade agreements with a number of countries and regions of the world.

Through these trade negotiations, the United States is setting the stage for global growth in trade that will help both developed and developing countries benefit from increased commerce. Abundant research demonstrates, in fact, that developing countries have much to gain from opening their markets to trade – and everything to lose by staying closed to global commerce.

  • The World Bank recently conducted a study of developing countries that opened themselves to global competition in the 1990s, and of those that did not. The income per person for globalizing developing countries grew more than 5 per cent a year, while incomes in non-globalizing poor countries grew just over 1 per cent. Globalizing developing countries sharply reduced absolute poverty rates over the last 20 years, and the income levels of the poorest households have kept up with the growth.

  • Other research highlights the benefits that developing countries could gain from lowering their own barriers to trade. One study predicts that developing countries would see a $540 billion dollar annual income gain from the elimination of barriers to trade in goods, with three-quarters of that gain due to the elimination of developing countries’ own trade restrictions.

  • The complete elimination of barriers to trade in goods globally could lift an additional 300 million people in developing countries out of poverty by 2015 – more than the entire population of the United States.

  • Overall, it is estimated that the elimination of global trade barriers would increase world income by $1.9 trillion each and every year.

Africa’s stake
No region of the world has a greater stake in global trade liberalization than Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of global trade has dropped from nearly 4 per cent in the 1960s to less than 2 per cent today. As a result, African countries and peoples have not fully shared in the growing prosperity that has accompanied the surge in global trade over the past few decades.

In response to this challenge, this Administration is actively pursuing an international aid and trade partnership with Africa. On trade, we are opening markets and opportunities through negotiation of a free trade agreement with the Southern African Customs Union, preferential trade arrangements, and global trade negotiations in the WTO. We are bolstering our aid to the region through President Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account initiative, which will substantially increase US assistance to developing countries that are opening markets and ruling justly.

The United States listens to the concerns of developing nations striving towards free trade. As President Bush has said, we must ‘include all the world’s poor in an expanding circle of development’. The United States is committed to directing a trade agenda that embraces this goal – and we are confident that this will reap benefits globally for the environment as well

Josette S. Shiner is Associate United States Trade Representative.

PHOTOGRAPH: Chris Cypert/www.chriscypert.com

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Looking through new lenses | Development with a human face | Trade can transform | Achieving win–win–win | People | Promises to keep | As precious as gold | Expanding the circle | At a glance: Globalization, poverty, trade and the environment | Acting local | Cooperation is catching | Books & products | Getting through the bottleneck | Investing in the environment | Bishkek Mountain Platform | You can’t breathe money | We will succeed | Fair trade? Fair question


Complementary articles in other issues:
Colin L. Powell: Only one Earth (World Summit on Sustainable Development) 2002
Madeleine K. Albright: Changing course (Beyond 2000) 2000
Fran P. Mainella: For the people (Beyond 2000) 2002
Issue on Poverty, Health and the Environment, 2001
Issue on Production and Consumption, 1996

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment:
Population and natural resources