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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
25 August 1999
The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Robert Hill, and the Minister for Trade, the Hon Mark Vaile, today hosted a high-level roundtable on international trade and environment issues in Parliament House.
Senator Hill indicated that the roundtable represented an important initiative, with trade and environment issues continuing to attract a high profile in the international arena.
The communique from the recent meeting of G8 Nations (the world's largest economies) stated that:
"We [the G8] agree that environmental considerations should be taken fully into account in the upcoming round of WTO negotiations. This should include a clarification of the relationship between both multilateral environmental agreements and key environmental principles, and WTO rules."'With trade and environment issues set to remain on the international agenda, the roundtable provided a forum for dialogue within Australia on the complex relationship between World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and environmental policies'.
Senator Hill emphasised that there was a range of different views on the relationship between trade and environment rules.
"It seems that trade and environment issues will be discussed at a meeting of WTO Ministers in Seattle later this year. In this respect, the roundtable is a timely forum in which to promote a better understanding of the trade and environment relationship."
The roundtable attracted international speakers, as well as key domestic stakeholders and trade and environment experts. Participants included representatives from industry and environment groups, universities, government agencies, the National Farmers Federation and consumer groups.
Discussion focussed on the opportunities for win-win outcomes, where trade liberalisation can promote better environmental outcomes, and on the relationship between WTO rules and international and domestic environment regulations.
Senator Hill welcomed the opportunity to explore issues such as the relationship between quarantine rules and WTO rules, and the whether the WTO regime could distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable production methods.
Media contact: Rod Bruem (02) 6277 7640