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Date: Thu, 11 Sep 97 13:06:25 CDT
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.apc.org>
Organization: ?
Article: 17807

U.S. Green Groups Reject NWF Plan to Negotiate Fast-Track Demands

Inside U.S. Trade, Vol. 15 no. 36, 5 September 1997

A major U.S. environmental organization this week failed to convince other green groups to enter into a process of negotiating environmental demands with the Clinton Administration in return for their support for fast-track negotiating authority. Under a proposal advanced by the National Wildlife Federation, not all environmental demands would have had to be addressed in the fast-track legislation, and instead could have been satisfied m part by other Administration actions.

But other U.S. environmental groups told the NWF during a Sept. 2 phone conference that they would not join in making specific environmental demands on the Administration because they do not trust it to deliver on its promises unless they are included in the fast-track bill itself, environmental sources said.

As a result, it remains unclear whether NWF on its own will send a letter outlining specific steps the Administration could take within, alongside and apart from the fast-back legislation to gain its backing for the bill, an informed environmental source said. Several other groups which joined NWF in backing NAFTA in 1993 are now poised to join anti-NAFTA environmental forces in opposing fast back if, as they expect, the Administration declines to place environmental objectives on a par with other overall negotiating objectives in the fast-track legislation.

Six environmental groups, including NWF and the Sierra Club, set tough standards for the Administration to meet on fast track earlier this year in a letter to Vice President Al Gore, green sources noted. Among the demands made in that Feb. 25 letter was a call for incorporating into fast track "a formal `green' trade negotiating objective which signals that pro-environment trade policies are indeed a `must'" (Inside US Trade, Feb. 28, p 3). Most environmental groups do not want to sway from their insistence that the Administration seek those concrete commitments inside a fast-back bill to advance environmental protection, in spite of requests from U.S. trade officials in recent weeks that they present more specific ideas. The groups do not expect the Administration to meet the yardstick they have advanced, and believe it would be "environmentally irresponsible" to negotiate narrower, specific commitments or pledges from the Administration in trade-related areas outside of the binding fast-track language itself, as NWF had been proposing.

If the Administration pushes ahead with a fast track that does not measure up to the standard laid out in the letter to Gore, as they expect will occur, most U.S. environmental groups, including several former NAFTA backers such as the Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund and the National Audubon Society, expect to push to defeat fast track. This would send the Administration a message that its failure to pro-actively implement a trade agenda sensitive to environmental concerns is untenable, according to environmental sources.

For the past few weeks, though. NWF has sought to build consensus among key players in the environmental community for the idea of seeking specific commitments from the Administration, both in the negotiating objectives included in the fast-track legislation as well as in trade arenas outside fast track.

Nearly all groups which previously supported NAFTA are disenchanted with the Administration's subsequent follow-up in overall U.S. trade policy, environmental sources said. As indications of U.S. inattention with regard to NAFTA, they noted the absence of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner at the last meeting of the environmental side accord's main policy-making body. They have also criticized the slow pace of the new NAFTA-related border institutions, the Border Environment Cooperation Council (BECC) and the North American Development Bank (NADBank), in approving border-cleanup projects.

The use of NAFTA investment provisions to challenge domestic environmental laws has also contributed to groups questioning their previous support, several green representatives said.

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