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Submission on Australia's relationship with the World Trade Organisation (WTO)

CollectionsANU College of Law
Title: Submission on Australia's relationship with the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
Author(s): Anton, Donald
Keywords: World Trade Organisation;WTO;Joint Standing Committee on Treaties;multilateral environmental agreements;environmental protection
Date published: 2000
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: Australian Centre for Environmental Law (ACEL), College of Law, The Australian National University
In March 1999, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ("DFAT") sought public input in formulating Australia's approach to negotiations in connection with the third World Trade Organisation ("WTO") Ministerial Conference to be held in Seattle in November and December 1999. The call for public submissions suggested a number of important issues and areas for consideration. Disturbingly, however, DFAT did not deem the relationship between environmental protection and international trade important enough to mention specifically. Perhaps, though, this was not so surprising at the time. A press release from the WTO about the Ministerial Conference omitted any reference to the environment. Moreover, Member States of the WTO did not seem any more predisposed to consider the issue in Seattle. Of the 90 plus communications received by the WTO General Council from various states on the upcoming ministerial conference, only Switzerland and Norway raised the possible inclusion of the issue of the relationship of trade and environment for discussion. Such a state of affairs made the much touted March 1999 High-Level Symposium on Trade and Environment held under the auspices of the WTO appear to have been merely lip service. This appearance of empty rhetoric was a paramount concern of legitimate protestors in Seattle. Clearly, states should be doing more to address the longstanding tensions that exist between rigid trade rules and disciplines, and effective environmental protection. Indeed, Australia should be doing more. This article looks at one key item - the relationship between trade rules and multilateral environmental agreements ("MEAs") - that ought to be a high priority at the 3rd WTO Ministerial Conference. It is an item that has languished over the past 5 years and an item that should be driven by the Australian delegation.


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