The UNCTAD secretariat and Inmetro (the National Institute of Metrology, Standardization and Industrial Quality, Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade of Brazil) jointly held a pre-UNCTAD XI workshop in Rio de Janeiro on 7 and 8 June 2004 to review the results of exploratory activities and examine the concept and modalities of a Consultative Task Force (CTF) on Environmental Requirements and Market Access for Developing Countries. Some 75 experts from a range of developed and developing countries, representing trade, environment and industry ministries, governmental, private-sector and NGO standardization organizations, intergovernmental organizations, and large and small companies, participated in the workshop.
They discussed the findings of the analytical and capacity-building work of UNCTAD, various intergovernmental organizations and other relevant initiatives, as well as sector- and country-specific experience. They also discussed the findings of draft studies on consultations with developing country stakeholders in the preparation and adoption of regulations and standards on environmental requirements in developed countries and on the feasibility of an international clearing house for environmental requirements and international trade. Experts had a more in-depth dialogue in three break-out groups on (a) involving developing countries in pre-regulation- and pre-standard-setting consultations; (b) an exchange of national experience on proactive adjustment policies in developing countries; and (c) an international clearing house mechanism for environmental and health requirements.
On the basis of this discussion, workshop participants aimed at conceptualizing the main policy and capacity-constraints issues, and in this regard, identifying the key problems encountered by developing countries at the interface of environmental requirements and market access. Against this background, participants discussed the specific contribution that the CTF should make to address some of the problems identified. This included the objectives, nature and modalities of CTF activities.
Need for a CTF
As countries seek to enhance environmental protection and promote sustainable development, environmental requirements are expected to become more frequent, including in sectors of key export interest to developing countries. With growing evidence of harmful environmental effects of certain substances, changes in consumer preferences and other factors, environmental requirements tend to become increasingly stringent and move continuously. Many voluntary requirements developed by the private sector or NGOs are de facto mandatory and tend to be globalized through international supply chains. They are largely outside WTO disciplines on TBT measures, but may be the precursor of future regulations. This contrasts with the lack of capacity in many developing countries to raise awareness about new environmental requirements in key export markets; gather much-needed information on them; and create effective public-private partnerships to adjust to the new requirements in a developmentally beneficial way. Participants also stressed that there was not enough consistent and credible information on the types of problems that existed; that the interplay between policy and capacity-constraints issues was not well understood; that not all problems could be addressed through WTO discussions and disciplines; and that there was an insufficient exchange of information among international organizations and other initiatives on activities implemented by them, although a strategic partnership would be required.
Many participants were of the view that a more holistic and development-oriented approach to the interface of environmental requirements and market access for developing countries was required, one that should include an integrated analysis of policy and capacity-constraints issues at three levels: at the international level outside the WTO, at the WTO level and at the national and local levels in developing countries. The complexity of the interplay between policy and capacity-building measures required a strategic and proactive response by exporting developing countries, rather than a merely reactive, "fire-fighting" approach, and more efficient public-private dialogue and cooperation. It also necessitated active collaboration by Governments and business associations in developed countries and a more coherent approach by donors. The CTF could make specific contributions in this regard.
It was concluded that exploratory activities had been very helpful in guiding the discussion on the value added and focus of CTF activities. Representatives of a number of Governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector and NGOs expressed their willingness to participate actively in relevant activities of the CTF. This provides a good basis for starting the implementation of a small number of well-defined and focused CTF activities.
Objectives and nature of CTF activities
Participants agreed that the functions of the CTF should be well defined and targeted, and not duplicative and pragmatic, with a view to adding value in areas of mutual interest to the parties concerned. In this context, the CTF could provide the "missing link" between existing mechanisms and initiatives to address specific policy and capacity gaps. The CTF should facilitate constructive dialogue, fully coordinated with concerned stakeholders, on (a) sector-specific experience in the preparation, adoption and implementation of regulations and standards and the related examination of possible trade implications for developing countries; (b) the development of holistic, proactive strategies in developing countries that effectively respond to environmental requirements in key export markets; (c) improved access to and dissemination of information on environmental requirements, including private-sector requirements; and (d) a regular exchange of information among international organizations, bilateral donors, private-sector associations and NGOs on those activities that are relevant for the CTF.
The CTF will provide an umbrella for well-structured and focused dialogue and networking on relevant issues at the interface of environmental requirements and market access for developing countries. Under its umbrella, the CTF may consider launching some specific, well-defined and time-limited project activities whose results will aid the substantive debate in the CTF. Initially, this would include work on themes (a) to (c), mentioned in the previous paragraph. As regards studying the feasibility of better linking existing international information systems on environmental requirements and improving collection of and access to information on voluntary requirements set by the private sector or NGOs, Inmetro&apo;s experience in disseminating information on TBT notifications through its early warning system was considered a useful point of departure. The CTF will regularly review the efficiency of project activities and decide on their continuation or termination, or on a change in the course of action.
The CTF will start as a collaborative effort among a core group of supportive partners, including Governments, relevant intergovernmental organizations, the private sector and concerned NGOs from developed and developing countries, but will be open to other interested stakeholders. The CTF and time-limited thematic activities under its umbrella will be implemented as a project-based activity.
CTF activities are not intended to "second-guess" the legitimacy and objectives of environmental requirements. Rather, they will analyse and discuss ways of overcoming specific developing country problems regarding the development and implementation of, as well as adjustment to, such measures.
Contact: Mr. Lorenzo Santucci,UNCTAD. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org