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Technology Transfer, Trade, and the Environment: Promoting Synergy for Sustainable Development among the World Trade Organisation and Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Annual Call for Projects 2006


Increasing the availability of environmental goods and services (EGS) through market liberalisation is seen as exemplifying the potential "win-win" relationship between trade and environment. Lower costs induced by lower or zero tariffs and non-tariff barriers would allow World Trade Organisation (WTO) Members to economise on resource/energy use and to increase their access to new technologies and know-how. At the same time, WTO Members would be able to comply with better environmental standards and adequately implement multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), most of which incorporate technology transfer provisions that have not been fully operationalised.

Paragraph 31 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration mandated negotiations for WTO Members on the reduction or, as appropriate, elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to EGS, with a view to enhancing the mutual supportiveness of trade and environment. These negotiations on EGS are indeed taking place in several WTO bodies, with significant engagement on the part of both developed and developing countries. Nevertheless, WTO Members have not yet found a meaningful way to proceed. In particular, the lack of understanding of and information on the concrete environmental needs and concerns in relation to technology, trade, and the environment have been an obstacle to progress towards a meaningful result.

At the same time, negotiations and discussions in the environmental context continue to highlight the importance of the development, access to, and dissemination of technology for the implementation of international environmental objectives, strategies, and provisions. They also increasingly emphasise the key role trade institutions and rules must play in this regard. The disconnection between the environmental and trade communities, however, threatens to impede adequate consideration of these issues and perspectives in the context of the paragraph 31 negotiations. As the Doha Round comes to a close, therefore, a critical opportunity to enhance the mutual supportiveness between trade and environmental institutions and rules may be lost. This concern is also addressed in the Doha Ministerial Declaration which calls for negotiations on the relationship between existing WTO rules and specific trade obligations set out in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).

The proposed project, supported by the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN), aims to increase awareness of the synergies between trade and environment in relation to technology; provide the information needed to build on these synergies and to minimise divergences; and promote, support and assist the often difficult dialogue between the trade and environmental communities on these issues. In order to achieve this objective, the project brings together the expertise and experience of several institutions, in particular: the Faculty of Law of the University of Geneva, the Graduate Institute of International Studies (GIIS), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE), as well as other specialised non-governmental organisations.

Specifically, the goal of the proposed project is twofold. First, it aims to generate new and cutting-edge interdisciplinary research on the relationship between technology, trade, and environment – particularly in relation to the role, relevance, and characteristics of liberalisation of EGS in the context of the WTO’s negotiations on paragraph 31 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration as well as other trade and environment discussions related to the Doha Round. Secondly, the proposed project aims to disseminate the research among a range of stakeholders – particularly trade negotiators – to have a direct impact on ongoing negotiations on EGS at the WTO by involving them in the various stages of the project, and by advancing outcomes that effectively promote a mutually supportive relationship between trade and environmental institutions, rules, and policies.

An integrated program of work is envisaged to advance the goals and implement the strategies of the proposed project, including the following activities:

The grant provided by the GIAN for this project totals SFr 200,000

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Project Team

Mr Alexey Vikhlyaev , Principal Member, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) .

Related Links

> EcoLomics International

Related News

Related Conferences

Roundtable Discussion on WTO Negotiations on Environmental Goods – 14 March 2007, 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm, at GIIS/HEI
This roundtable represents the first of three events organised in the framework of the GIAN-supported project...
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Trade, Environment and Role of Technology Transfer - Conference, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Auditoire Jacques Freymond), 24 January 2008 from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm
This conference concludes a 14-month research program conducted by the University of Geneva’s Law Faculty and the...
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Research Output

WTO Negotiations on Environmental Goods
(available in English only)
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The International Conventions on the Transports of Wastes, Pesticides and Other Chemicals
(available in English only)
> more
The Geneva-based Conventions on Chemicals and Wastes
(available in English only)
> more