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International Trade and the Environment: The WTO and the New Beginning

Robert Page

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Role of NGOs

One of the fundamental structural issues frequently discussed in the meetings of the subcommittee is the issue of transparency and openness, including NGO participation in, or observation of, the proceedings. This topic clearly showed the overwhelming opposition of WTO delegates to fundamental structural change. Most wanted only national governments represented and NGO input confined to influencing the government representatives preparing for meetings. The US argued strongly for business, development, and environment NGOs to be granted observer status where their work was relevant to the proceedings. It believed that this was simply following the example of many other international institutions and reflected the need for open processes to build public credibility. Canada and many other nations rejected this view, which was eventually withdrawn by the Americans. Even observers would disrupt the proceedings and hinder candor in the interaction between delegations. India felt it would politicize the WTO. The debate ended with a clear majority for release of more information, including documents, but their proceedings would remain private.[5]

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