The work of the Canadian Alliance on Trade and Environment (CATE) follows up on that undertaken by the Common Front on the World Trade Organization (CF-WTO) since 1996. The CF-WTO is set to continue its work, focussing on the impacts of trade globalization on social services, labour standards and culture.
The Steering Committee of the Canadian Alliance on Trade and Environment consists of representatives from the following organizations:
Canadian Labour Congress
Council of Canadians
Sierra Club of Canada
The Canadian Alliance on Trade and Environment can be reached at:
CATE c/o Sierra Club of Canada
412-1 Nicholas Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 7B7
We are living in an era where trade agreements have come to supplant constitutions and democratic participation as the basis of government policy. The General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT) provides the framework for global enforcement of a "free trade" agenda. A state's implementation of environmental protection and social policy legislation can effectively be struck down through the GATT system of rules on trade. Indeed, the GATT has a history of finding environmental and social policy measures to be non-tariff barriers to trade.
The World Trade Organization (WTO), which administers the GATT, is arguably the most powerful multilateral institution in the world. Yet, it is an institution which rarely permeates the public consciousness, in spite of the profound consequences of its decisions. An example of the WTO's impact can be seen in its ruling against Canada, on "split-run" editions of U.S. magazines. This ruling, which has the weight of trade sanctions behind it, effectively negated federal government promises that Canadian cultural industries would be protected under free trade.
The WTO's impact on environment legislation and international initiatives such as MEAs (Multilateral Environmental Agreements - an example would be the international agreement on ozone depleting substances, the Montreal Protocol) is no less significant. For example, the Convention for the Protection of Biological Diversity recognizes rights to traditional knowledge of biological and genetic resources. Implementation of the convention will be difficult in light of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS).
Through its Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), the WTO is active on this issue as well as others which are absolutely critical to a range of environmental protection measures. At its past meetings, the committee has made decisions on issues affecting efforts to promote sustainably harvested forest products, organically produced food, protection of the ozone layer, restrictions on the flow of toxic chemicals and efforts to reduce the emission causing climate change -- to name a few. These deliberations which have global significance were conducted amongst a small number of people, whose accountability to the international community, the public and even governments is unclear.
It is increasingly clear that environmental and social policy cannot be developed in a vacuum which fails to recognize the over-arching power of the WTO and trade rules.