Fighting "green imperialism"

WITH the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the issue of trade and environment is heating up. In mid February, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) invited senior environment ministers, government officer sand heads of the United Nations Conference on and Trade and development and GATT for a discussion on trade and environment related issues in Geneva.

UNEP executive director Elizabeth Dowdeswell's remark that the "trade and environment debate is a political minefield confronted by every country, industry arid ecosystem" was taken up by Indian environment minister Kamal Nath, who criticised the involvement of GATT , He branded the concept of international eco-labeIling as a farm of "green imperialism".

Nath was supported by Brazilian minister for environment and the Amazon region Rubens Ricupero, who chaired the discussions. Ricupero raised the issue of Western nations striving to restrict the export of paper one of Brazil's major sources of foreign exchange on environmental grounds. Brazil does cut down virgin forests to obtain pulp, but nurtures plantations, which act as carbon sinks, he said. It is the West he argued, that produce harmful gases.

The representatives of developed countries made no commitments. Though J G M Alders, environment minister of the Netherlands, said the West must drastically reduce its consumption and production of environmentally harmful products, he maintained that it is necessary to forge a link between trade and environment and establish guidelines to monitor international trade. He claimed the Netherlands will focus disciplining its neighbours, with whom it carries on at least 90 per cent of its trade. John Gummer, environment minister of United Kingdom, observed that international trade only termed progressive when the North and the South can grow togther.

However, the conclusion of the meeting was clear. An Indian expert pointed out: "The western delegates conveyed the message, albeit subtly, that though they understand the problems faced by development nations, the authority to take decisions lies in the hand of those who hold the Purse strings - the finance ministers, of the developed world."

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