Reports from Meetings

on 21 September on Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) on Rules of Origin in the South African Development Community Group and Financial Services in Central Africa, Brussels

The SIA was done on the sectors garments in Lesotho and fisheries in Namibia (compare the film "Darwin's Nightmare", plot here. Fisheries in Namibia with 30-40% HIV AIDS sound reminiscent of an earlier workshop on trade and the environment at the European Economic and Social Committee, Brussels, protocol in PDF). However the plans mention "careful management" of fish stocks. Trade with the EU is "negligible." A business participant claimed that the  garment sector in Lesotho involved investments from third countries. As for Central Africa, it is an area where oil can comprise 30% of GDP and the Congo has vast mineral wealth. 70% of activities there are in the informal sector. Financial services such as microfinance and the Clean Development Mechanism CDM are perceived as opportunities. Oxfam is skeptical of the terms under which the Cotonou Agreement is to be replaced by EPAs. The South Centre is holding a meeting.

on 22 September at the European Environment Bureau, Brussels
Nick Mabey, formerly from Tony Blair's Futures Unit, held the keynote on security and climate change. He said that many fears spread by "The Economist" magazine as to missing the goals of the Lisbon Agenda were unfounded, and that more recent growth estimates were reassuring. He claimed that the EU was strong in getting political support for investment in public goods. One example cited was having appropriate automotive efficiency regulations in place on time, a feat which had saved the EU 50% of GDP. Mabey claimed that there were no accurate scenarios for 2030. However from the audience Jacqueline McGlade corrected Mabey with a reference to the European Environmental Agency's new PRELUDE (PRospective Environmental analysis of Land Use Development in Europe) with its MS PowerPoint Show.

on 25-26th Sept. at the WTO Public Symposium, Geneva
Photos of this event are now online. Ted Turner and the Unilever CEO started out the plenary with bold statements on the potential of biofuels. Achim Steiner, the incoming United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, described UNEP as "a trade organization" when he spoke on "Making Trade Liberalization Work for Sustainable Development". There were two sessions dedicated to "Measuring Different Futures for the Global Trading System" and "Sustainability and Environmental Impact Assessments" respectively. The Evian Group brainstormed on whether the end of the WTO could be near and whether Pictet would take over the building: Multilateral institutions come and go while private banking has survived for centuries. Sheila Page from ODI and Ramon Torrent ended up the symposium with a Spanish/English session on "How can academic policy-oriented thinking on WTO matters be improved?" proposing to set up a network of WTO relay centers" to foster more trade negotiation expertise in developing countries. The audio presentations from each session of the Forum are now available on the WTO Website; go to the programme, and click on a link.

on 27th Sept. at the ICTSD Experts Meeting, Geneva
"Exploring Synergies between Energy Standards, Climate Change and
International Trade"
The programme from this event is available online. Having representatives from such disparate disciplines as international law and energy conservation speaking to one and the same audience made this event like two conferences in one. Meanwhile the European Commission is divided over a suspended energy efficiency plan, and WWF calls for its approval in this PDF document.

Dr Melaku Geboye Desta, author of  "
OPEC, the WTO, Regionalism and Unilateralism", challenged Yulia Selivanova from the Energy Charter Secretariat, as to whether we need new rules on energy beyond those now in force at the WTO.  A central question that emerged was whether certifying biofuels as environmentally friendly might become the next test of the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement to come up after the question as to whether Process and Production Methods (PPM) were product-related had been tested on the tuna/dolphin and shrimp/turtle cases. Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) approaches and ecolabelling schemes rely onbeing allowed to distinguish products by their PPMs. Developing countries smell green protectionism and fear for their competitiveness, as Duncan Brack explains in his 2000 paper "Trade and Environment after Seattle".

Note: The flights to and from Brussels were taken on Richard Branson's airline, whose profits in future are expected to go to more environmental fuels.

Updated: 6th October 2006

Surf back up to SERI member page Thomas Ruddy

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