Trade and Environment Seminar Hosted by Globe


02 October 2001
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

This Report is a Contact Natural Resource Information Service
Taking Parliament to People, and People to Parliament


The aim of this report is to summarise the main events at the meeting and identify the key role players. This report is not a verbatim transcript of proceedings.


2 October 2001

Ms G. Mahlangu

Documents handed out:
Global Debate in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Trade and the Environment (World Trade Organisation)
The Challenges Around Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development in a South African Context (Environmental Monitoring Group)
Case Study: Small Scale Rooibos Tea Production (Environmental Monitoring Group)
International Fisheries Trade: Case Study of the Patagonian Toothfish (Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition)
A Business Perspective on Trade and Environment (South African Chamber of Commerce)
Trade and Genetically Modified Organisms: The Role of Transnational Companies (Canadian Farmer)

The meeting comprised of a series of presentations regarding the relationship between trade and the environment in the South African context. Presentations were made by representatives from civil society organisations, the Department of Trade and Industry and the South African Chamber of Business. While the initial presentations focused on broad principles regarding the relationship between trade and the environment, these were followed by three case studies on: the Patagonian Toothfish industry; the Rooibos tea industry; and genetically modified organisms(GMO). The Committee was given an opportunity to comment and ask questions where clarity was required. A follow up meeting was proposed by the Committee where the issues of the Patagonian Toothfish and GMO's could be further discussed.


The Chairperson welcomed the Committee members and presenters. She remarked that issues pertaining to trade and the environment were important to South Africa as a developing country. She stated that the assumption that developing nations were not concerned with environmental issues needed to be challenged. She further stated that issue of poverty was not necessarily linked to environmental degradation and that Ministers were presently emphasizing the need for dialogue on the matter. She concluded her opening address by stating that the aim of the meeting was to determine what South Africa's position should be in relation to the trade vs. environment debate.

Global Debate in the World Trade Organisation(WTO) on Trade and the Environment
Ms S. Crompton, Assistant Director of Trade and Negotiations Sub-division, Department of Trade and Industry, began her presentation by saying that she was not an expert in all aspects of the relationship between trade and the environment, but she would present some discussions that had taken place in the WTO. She pointed out that the environment was not on top of the agenda, but at least it was on the agenda. The main focus of the WTO was on trade; however, she added that there were increasing overlaps between trade and environmental issues, the latter more frequently becoming the "deal maker" or "deal breaker" in the conclusion of international agreements. She mentioned that a Group on Environmental Measures and International Trade had been established in 1971. This Group had a very limited mandate until 1991, focusing predominantly on technical issues.

Ms Crompton explained that the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) had since been established with a broad mandate to examine the relationship between trade and environment in the multilateral trading system. She mentioned that the main task for the CTE was to identify the relationship between trade and environmental measures in order to promote sustainable development. She also stated that WTO agreements increasingly contained provisions relating to the environment and these included: Art 20 of Gatt 1994,TBT Agreement, SPS Agreement, Trips Agenda and the SCM Agreement. She mentioned that the CTE had ten standing issues on its agenda, and the European Union (EU) had highlighted three issues that needed clarification.

Ms Crompton identified the three issues as the precautionary principle, eco-labeling, and multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). She explained that the precautionary principle was utilised where there was a possibility of serious or irreversible harm. Her example in this case was mad cow and foot and mouth diseases. Eco-labeling related to consumer awareness but also provided legal incentive for manufacturers and vendors to properly label goods according to environmental standards. Ms Crompton noted that the other relevant forums that examined trade and environment issues were the preparations for the WSSD and the activities surrounding the MEAs. She added that ongoing negotiations between the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol would have an impact on economic development and trade. She quoted that more than 40% of South African exports went to the EU and therefore South Africa should cooperate with the EU in order to ensure continued exportation levels. In conclusion, she reiterated South Africa's overall objectives were poverty alleviation and the promotion of sustainable environmental, social, and economic development. These objectives would have to be attained in conjunction with environmental considerations.

The Challenges Around Trade, Environment and Sustainable Development in a South African Context
Ms J. Wilson, Programme Manager of the Environmental Monitoring Group, began her presentation by examining the challenges and opportunities for South Africa. She stated that a crucial concern was where people fitted into the discussions and debates on trade and the environment. She pointed out that core challenges faced by the global community in the future were: sharing the benefits of trade between countries and establishing equal terms of trade; bringing people back into trade debates and establishing meaningful economies; increasing the awareness of environmental considerations within the trade environment; and ensuring sustainable consumption through orientating production to suit the needs of consumers. She also mentioned that trade policy was carried out in many different arenas and among many different players and that the dominant paradigm that trade led to growth and in turn to sustainable development, needed to be questioned.

Ms Wilson turned to focus on the issue of sharing the benefits of trade. She stated that the WTO was an important forum in which to change the present global terms of trade and that South Africa had an important role to play in this regard as it was a dominant economy within Southern Africa. The agriculture and fishing international industries were presently unbalanced with large amounts of pressure being placed on South Africa especially in regard to access to its fishing grounds. She continued by stating that local development could be stimulated through incorporating opportunities within international trade agreements.

Ms Wilson continued her presentation by stating that it was essential to bring 'people' back into discussions on trade. People were presently being alienated from the economy and South Africa should guard against undesirable growth as it often entrenched inequalities. She stated that the crucial question with regard to trade should be whether poor South African's were benefiting and that this could be achieved through: providing opportunities for participation and empowerment; providing communities and civil society organisations with opportunities to voice their concerns and propose alternative values; and stimulating fair trade incentives such as bringing consumers and producers closer together. She pointed out that there was presently very little room in South Africa for NGOs in trade talks.

Ms Wilson proceeded to discuss the role of the Department of Trade and Industry's environmental implementation plan. She stated that this was a good mechanism to increase focus on environmental issues within the trade sector. She mentioned that trade always had an impact on transportation and highlighted the risks attached to trading in environmental 'bads' such as hazardous waster. She noted that there was very little discussion of impacts of the environment on trade and that trade issue forums far out-numbered policy discussions on environmental concerns. Ms Wilson further questioned the sustainability of South Africa focusing on resource intensive industries and stated that there was an increasing tendency for the negotiation for Multilateral Environmental Agreements to become forums for the discussion of trade concerns rather than environmental concerns.

The final area addressed by Ms Wilson was that of sustainable consumption. She mentioned that South Africa needed to shift away from over consumption. In addition, South Africa needed to decrease commodification and increase the purchasing of local products.

Ms Wilson then proposed six recommendations to the Committee which included: the development of interdepartmental teams to negotiate on trade and sustainable development issues; the stimulation of public debate and discussion with all interested parties on issues of trade and the environment; ensuring that sustainable development is reclaimed within environmental dialogue as opposed to trade dialogue; conduct research and develop criteria against which to assess and evaluate the performance of trade agreements; identify strategic and active interventions to ensure that trade policy and agreements contribute to the greater livelihood security for poor South Africans; and include an analysis of sustainable consumption in developing policy on sustainable production and trade.

A Business Perspective on Trade and Environment
Ms P. Drodskie, Policy Director of the South African Chamber of Commerce (SACOB), began her presentation by stating that the relationship between trade and the environment was a complex issue and, in the South African environment, that was a concern. She noted that business had an interest in the environment because it made good business sense, both for image and profit. She added that environmental legislation had been enacted in South Africa, and the business concern was that environmental policy imposed trade barriers. She mentioned that South African policies were an indication of strong environmental responsibility and recognition. SACOB would prefer not to introduce environmental issues to the WTO negotiations. SACOB reasoning was that the WTO could potentially make business and trade more difficult for South Africa. She argued that many issues like eco-labeling and MEA's had already been included in the negotiations and, therefore, did not require SA support.

Ms Drodskie continued by stating that the environment and tourism needed to be preserved, and awareness of both sectors needed to be raised. She mentioned that businesses were concerned with production costs, and she added that South Africa should reduce water and energy use as high input costs. She believed South Africa had a solid environmental policy and legislation, but the problem in South Africa was enforcing and monitoring that policy. She mentioned that South Africa needed to rationalise, coordinate and consolidate the demands placed on businesses by conventions and legislation. She suggested that the input of South Africa into the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) would enable the country to contribute to the future debate.

The Chairperson opened the floor for questions and comments from the Committee regarding all three presentations.

Mr E. Moorcroft (DP) complimented the presenters and raised concern over the issue of subsidies for agricultural products and the dumping of agricultural surpluses. He asked Ms Crompton what were they intending to do about it.

Ms Crompton responded that the dumping and subsidies were a concern and that environmental issues were becoming "deal makers" especially in agricultural agreements. She stated that the incorporation of environmental issues into international trading agreements was often abused by developed countries to support their own industry. She said that the subsidies on agriculture would have to cease in the future.

Mr Moorcroft asked Ms Crompton what the government's attitude was to non-sustainable industries such as logging.

Ms Crompton said she was not in a position to answer the question but stated that forestry would be an important issue for discussion at the WSSD.

Mr R.September (ANC) commented that he was grateful for the introduction to the complex issues and added that he was worried about South Africa's strict budget limits. He wished that departments had the capacity to better monitor and control budget allocation and spending but, unfortunately, that did not happen. He said severe damage had been done by certain industries and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism lacked the capacity to effectively monitor those actors. Directing his comment to Ms Drodskie, he asked that businesses assist on the matter.

Ms M. Ramotsamai (ANC) said that she heard Ms Drodskie say that South Africa had good environmental policy. She asked, if businesses adhered to that policy, what could they assist with in terms of monitoring so as to save excess government responsibility.

Ms Drodskie responded that South Africa was lacking the resources to monitor and that the country needed to take the issue further.

Mr D. Nkosi (ANC) commented that there were gaps that needed to be addressed, and solutions must be implemented. He suggested that government could learn from communities who subsist with little outside intervention.

International Fisheries Trade : Case Study of the Patagonian Toothfish
Ms K. Sack, Southern African Campaigner for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, began her presentation by pointing out that illegal fishing was an important issue for South Africa. She stated that the government was loosing R3 billion as a result of the illegal fishing trade and that pirate fishing of the Patagonian Toothfish was out of control in the Southern Oceans. She described the basic characteristics of the Patagonian Toothfish and stated that its consumer markets were largely in the United States and Japan. She stated that the Patagonian Toothfish plays a crucial role in short food chain in the areas in which it is located and that its depletion was having a large impact on other species within these areas. Furthermore, the longline technique used to catch the fish also had serious environmental consequences. The fishing industry, with regard to Patagonian Toothfish, had expanded hugely in the 1990's. She emphasized the extent of the problem by stating that by 1997, more than 57% of all Patagonian Toothfish traded on the world markets were sourced from pirate vessels. She stated that although certain measures had been taken internationally to address illegal fishing, such as the Catch Documentation Scheme adopted under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources(CCAMLR), these measures had not assisted in significantly reducing illegal fishing.

Looking forward, Ms Sack stated that South Africa should use its position in SADC to pressure other nations in Southern Africa to sign CCAMLR and regulate vessels using their ports. She furthermore supported a global moratorium on the toothfish trade through citing the Patagonian Toothfish as an endangered species under CITES.

Case Study; Small Scale Rooibos Tea Production
Ms A. Arendse, Project Coordinator for the Trade and Environment Governance Programme, introduced her speech by saying that 50% of Rooibos tea, known for its taste and health benefits, was exported from South Africa. Rooibos was a dryland crop commercialised in the early 1990s. She said that the Rooibos tea industry in South Africa earned approximately R65m in revenue annually. The industry employed between 4000 and 5000 South Africans and exported approximately 3000 tons per year. She however stated that there were many problems faced by small-scale producers within the industry including: land tenure; technical and capacity limitations; lack of infrastructure and financial support; lack of access to markets; and the inability of these producers to compete with large commercial concerns.

In addressing the future opportunities of the small-scale Rooibos producers, she highlighted the need for international organic and fair trade movements to increase the link between producers and purchasers in order to ensure producers the maximum benefit. She concluded by stating certain additional recommendations to generate opportunities for the small-scale producers including: the establishment of a regulatory environment conducive to extending trade benefits to these small-scale producers; improving access to research, infrastructure and empowerment; improving access to exiting business development and trade incentives; and conducting research into alternative support mechanisms for small scale producers.

Trade and Genetically Modified Organisms(GMO's): The Role of Transnational Companies

Mr P. Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer, briefed the Committee on the impact GMO's on the Canadian canola seed industry. He stated that he had been a farmer for 40 years. Working as a seed developer, he saved his own seed and used it from year to year. He mainly saved canola seed, which he believed was more nutritious with fewer chemicals. Mr Schmeiser explained that the American seed company, Monsanto, had accused him of growing their genetically engineered canola seed without a license. Monsanto had instituted a large claim against him. He stated that his crops had in fact been cross-pollinated from neighbouring farmer's fields. Despite his protestations of innocence, Monsanto sued him and the Canadian Courts found him guilty. He has however appealed the decision.

Mr Schmeiser then went on to highlight certain realities regarding the genetically modified Monsanto seed from which he said the international community could learn important lessons regarding GMO's generally. He stated that the impact of the court decision had in reality denied farmers the right to use their own seed as it was often cross-pollinated by Monsanto seed. He warned against the world using GMO as he said it threatened food security. Whoever was in control of the seed controlled the food supply. He further stated that significant health questions had been raised regarding the seed. From an environmental perspective, he stated that GMO's were easily transferred via cross-pollination and had been known to enter other living species such as insects. In conclusion, Mr Schmeiser stated that there was no such thing as containment of GMO's and therefore no such thing as coexistence with them. GMO's raised crucial questions regarding liability such as when they 'polluted' another's 'natural' crops. Finally he said that the use of chemicals associated with the GMO's, such as Roundup, had been established is being partly the cause of increased illness in Canada.

Mr E. Moorcroft (DP), touched by the presentation made by Mr Schmeiser, said that he was disturbed and sympathetic. He said it was impossible to deal with such a topic at that meeting, and he proposed that another meeting be arranged because justice could not be done at that time.

The Chairperson agreed with the proposal made by Mr Moorcroft.

Reverend M. Chabaku (ANC) proposed a meeting where all parties concerned could attend.

Ms M. Ramotsamai (ANC) asked Ms Sack about the quantity of toothfish in the country, what the benefits of the fish were, and where the fish were sold. She asked Ms Arendse whether the issues relating to the Rooibos Tea industry applied similarly to the Honey-Bush Tea industry. She further expressed surprise at the low level of production by small-scale producers.

Ms Arendse responded that the issues she had raised related to both varieties of tea.

Ms J. Semple (UCDP) commented that GMO issues were highly controversial but that the Committee needed to hear all interests. She asked Ms Sack if there were any additional disciplinary measures that could be taken as the CDS system appeared to be inadequate.

Ms Sack said that, for now, South Africa had a candidate up for chairperson for the CCMALR, Mr Muller, and she requested that the Committee support him.

The Chairperson pointed out that the Committee would try to meet him, and he would receive their support. She added that South African citizens needed to hear about illegal fishing. She said that an additional meeting should be arranged to discuss the issues further. Mr Singh, from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, was then invited to make some comments.

Mr Singh responded by stating that the following challenges were going to be faced at the WSSD: eradicating poverty; striking a balance between trade and sustainable development; insuring equity in resource allocation and use; opening trade policy processes to all parties; supporting developing countries to partake in international debate on trade and environment issues; insuring the representation of global institutions dealing with these issues; and lastly, using WSSD to insure sustainable development.

Mr Henry Fortuin from CSIR was also given a chance to make his comments. He proposed the establishment of a multi-stakeholder forum to deal with issues such as trade and the environment. He furthermore encouraged interaction between the various government departments and parliamentary committees prior to them attending international trade conferences, so that they were adequately prepared on all issues.

The meeting was adjourned.

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