The role of sustainable impact assessments
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CTA. 2003. The role of sustainable impact assessments. Agritrade, August 2003. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/52481
The latest edition of Trade Negotiations Insights looks at the role of...
The latest edition of Trade Negotiations Insights looks at the role of sustainability impact assessments (SIAs) in assisting ACP countries in preparing for EPA negotiations. It considers the development of the concept to date and highlights how it could assist ACP countries in identifying vulnerable sectors and structuring moves towards free trade in order to minimise adjustment costs. It notes, however, that the starting point for the SIAs is economic liberalisation, although it does not consider alternatives. This is seen by some observers as a major shortcoming since for certain least-developed countries liberalisation may not be entirely appropriate at this stage in their economic development. The article reports that SIAs have been initiated in two ACP regions, the Caribbean and West Africa. Each SIA has four stages: a screening stage, which seeks to identify those trade and trade-related issues relevant for EPAs; a scoping stage which relates these trade and trade-related issues to economic, social and environmental-sustainability concerns; a preliminary SIA stage, where a first assessment is made of the significant positive and negative effects that an EPA will have on sustainable development; a mitigation and enhancement measures stage, which seeks to propose specific measures that can be taken to make trade liberalisation more conducive to sustainable development. It acknowledges the difficulties faced in relating the different fields of economic social and environmental effects to the broad trade agenda to be discussed. This is a particular challenge in the EPA negotiations because of the broad trade agenda under discussion, the complicated regional dimension and the lack of adequate base-line data. A central plank of the SIA approach is stakeholder involvement in the process. The article however acknowledges the absence of effective stakeholder involvement in the SIA process to date, as well as in the process of drawing up the terms of reference for SIAs, a responsibility which lies entirely in the domain of the European Commission. This has led to questioning of the underlying motivation of the SIA process, with some seeing it as an expensive public-relations exercise by the European Commission, which will have no actual impact on the process of negotiations. Comment: It should be noted that the methodology adopted for SIAs allows no scope for questioning the appropriateness of trade liberalisation or of addressing the important question of the sequencing of regional market integration amongst ACP countries and trade liberalisation vis-à-vis the EU. Equally it does not address the issue of the sequencing of supply-side measures in relation to the pace of trade liberalisation.