HC Deb 30 November 2000 vol 357 cc773-4W
Mr. Moore

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress he has made in considering the options for defining the relationship between multilateral environmental agreements and World Trade Organisation disciplines since the publication of his response to the 16th report from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. [140334]

Mr. Meacher

Clarifying the relationship between Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) remains an important priority for the United Kingdom and the European Union. We will continue to press for inclusion of this issue in a new trade Round.

The European Community submitted a paper on "Resolving the Relationship between WTO rules and Multilateral Environmental Agreements" to the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment when it met on 24–25 October. The paper was designed to stimulate a positive discussion among WTO members on the nature of the problem and what our aims should be in clarifying the relationship. It discusses the need for some form of WTO accommodation mechanism for trade measures mandated by MEAs. An option for this mechanism considered by the paper is "reversal of the burden of proof' under Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the General Exceptions clause), which would require that any party challenging a mandated MEA trade measure would have to prove that the measure does not meet the conditions of Article XX. The paper makes clear, however, that we have not reached a final conclusion on the merits of this option, and that we remain ready to consider any proposals made by other WTO members.

We will continue to use all opportunities to engage with developing countries on this issue. We are funding the Commonwealth Secretariat to host a workshop on Trade and Sustainable Development, to which twenty Commonwealth countries including the UK have been invited, on 19–22 January 2001. The issue of the relationship between Multilateral Environmental Agreements and WTO rules will be one of the subjects discussed at the workshop.

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