Calls for Civil Society Participation in Regional Trade Policy

21 December 1998

Canada said it would continue to push for greater civil society participation in the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum in 1999, despite rejection of a proposal for broader public participation at the APEC summit last month. Writing in the FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW this month, Canada's Minister for Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy said the Asian financial crises has "dramatically illustrated the interconnections between the economic, social and political realms," and called on APEC to engage new partners in forging an economic recovery program. Mr. Axworthy said APEC must "engage its sceptics" in order to win support for regional and global trade liberalisation, and to make globalisation work better. Mr. Axworthy hailed the important contributions of non-governmental organisations in the multilateral process, noting that NGO participation contributed significantly to the outcome at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the World Conference on Women in Beijing.

In related news, U.S. and EU environmental groups last week pressed U.S. and EU officials to fully include civil society in developing Transatlantic trade policy. In advance of the EU-U.S. summit where the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP), an enhanced EU-U.S. trade arrangement, was to be discussed, the Transatlantic Environment Dialogue (TAED), a grouping of U.S. and EU environmental groups and NGOs, called for equal access to TEP discussions as those afforded the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), a grouping of U.S. and EU business interests. In their first declaration, TAED urged the U.S. and EU to postpone implementation of the TEP until environmental issues are added. "Our governments must immediately begin to work with civil society to revise the implementation of the TEP Action Plan to ensure that this partnership will actively promote environmental protection and sustainable development," the declaration said. Consumer and labour groups have also joined to form parallel groups to the TABD, namely, the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue and the Transatlantic Labour Dialogue. The original EU proposal on TEP called for increased EU-U.S. co-operation with respect to trade and environment linkage, and recommended increased EU-U.S. dialogue on the environment, labour and electronic commerce.

"The fifth column: managing our people," FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC REVIEW, December 14, 1998; "USTR highlights role of NGOs in Transatlantic trade policy," INSIDE US TRADE, December 18, 1998.

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