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Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make it his policy to urge the EC representatives involved in the negotiation of the GATT Uruguay round to ensure that any agreement on a multilateral trade organisation, (a) state unequivocally that existing international environmental treaties will not be liable to challenge using GATT rules and (b) states a clear commitment to promotion of sustainable development in the main body of the text.

As the GATT has no powers to challenge other international agreements, and does not seek such powers, such a statement is not required. Language on sustainable development is already incorporated in the draft text of the MTO preamble. The Commission has sought to strengthen this language and to annex a ministerial declaration on future trade and environment work to the Uruguay round final act.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what are the terms of reference of the GATT working group on environmental measures and trade; how many times the group has met since 1971; what matters have been discussed at recent meetings; what reports have been produced; and what is the method by which Her Majesty's Government have input into the discussions at meetings of the group.

The formal terms of reference of the GATT group remain those under which it was established in November 1971. The group did not meet until 1991, but has met 11 times since then, to discuss three agenda items: the GATT's relationship to multilateral environmental agreements; transparency of environmental regulations; and packaging and labelling. The group is also discussing those elements of the follow-up to UNCED "Agenda 21" which fall to the GATT. The GATT secretariat has reported transactions of the meetings and has, at the group's request, produced background papers to facilitate discussion. Individual contracting parties have also tabled papers. The European Commission speaks for the Community in GATT. United Kingdom input is made in three ways: at Community co-ordinations in Geneva; in the article 113 committee in Brussels; and by informal contacts with the Commission.