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Environment and Trade and External Relations

In an effort to promote global sustainable development, the EU is taking steps to integrate environmental concerns into its external relations and trade policies. Particular emphasis is put on including environmental issues in the enlargement process, on developing stronger global co-operation on environmental issues through an enhanced United Nations system and on finding a greater balance between liberalised trade rules and multilateral environmental agreements.

As a first step towards achieving these and other sustainable development goals, the EU General Affairs Council of April 2001 requested the European Commission to carry out sustainability impact assessments of all trade agreements between the EU and other countries. The Council also asked the Commission to put together a more detailed integration strategy, including indicators to support its implementation. This includes registering the number of third country agreements that have been environmentally assessed and accounting for the amount of environmental assistance given to countries. The Council also agreed to review regularly its integration strategy - the first review is due to take place during 2003.

When it comes to international trade, the link with the environment is becoming increasingly important. There are three main issues at stake: the environmental impact of trade and trade policies, the potential effects of environmental measures on trade flows, and the use of trade measures to achieve environmental policy aims. The EU is taking a leading role in international discussions on these issues, in particularly in the World Trade Organisation Committee on Trade and Environment. At the launch of the Doha trade round, the EU succeeded in having a sustainable development reflected in the negotiations. Having a strong environmental component is vital if trade and environment issues are to be dealt with efficiently at international level.

In the field of external relations, the Commission prepared a working document in October 2001 addressing cross-cutting policy areas, such as security policy, multilateral relations, international environmental agreements and the WTO, human rights and democratisation, dialogue with developed country partners, the Balkans, Newly Independent States, relations with developing countries of the Mediterranean and Middle East, Latin America and Asia.

In February 2002, a further step came with the adoption of the Commission Communication on the external dimension of sustainable development: 'Towards a global partnership for sustainable development'. This examines not only the role of EU external policies but also the contribution internal policies should make to global sustainable development. It highlights six key areas of action: harnessing globalisation, making trade contribute further to sustainable development, fighting poverty and promoting social development, improving the coherence of EU policies, encouraging better governance at all levels, and financing sustainable development.

The General Affairs Council adopted the integration strategy at a meeting on 12 March 2002. It puts forward a series of actions aimed at contributing to global sustainable development and covers economic, social, environmental and financial aspects.

The following environment-related information is available on the website of Trade DG: