Trade in Environmental Services: Assessing the Implications for Developing Countries, GATS E-mail
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The importance of sustainable development to trade rules established by the World Trade Organisation is enshrined in the first paragraph of the Agreement that establishes the institution. Trade liberalisation in environmental services is seen by some observers as having the potential to contribute to sustainable development, particularly in developing countries. However, most developing countries have taken a defensive negotiating position on environmental services and progress in the negotiations on environmental services has been limited. As the WTO Director General has observed, “the pursuit of sustainable development is a difficult balancing act, requiring progress on all three of its pillars – the economic, the environmental and the social” (Lamy, 2005).

Trade in Environmental Services: Assessing the Implications for Developing Countries in the GATS,
ICTSD Issue Paper by Colin Kirkpatrick

The Doha Ministerial Declaration calls for “the reduction or, as appropriate, elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services” (Para 31(iii)). The Doha Ministerial Conference set a deadline for concluding the Doha Round of negotiations by 2005, along with deadlines for submitting requests (June 2002) and offers (March 2003) for services liberalisation. The 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration expresses the intent to intensify negotiations in services, notwithstanding the missed deadlines, with a view to expanding sectoral and modal coverage of commitments and improving their quality, with particular attention to sectors and modes of supply of export interest to developing countries. In particular, Annex C of the Declaration recognises new methods of negotiations on services, including a plurilateral approach as proposed by the ‘Friends of Services’ (these Groups exist for 19 sub-sectors). In a recognition of sustainable development concerns, the Annex notes that negotiations “shall have regard to the size of economies of individual Members, both overall and in individual sectors.

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