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Reg WeekSM: CRE Regulatory Action of the Week

Environmental Review Executive Order Being Applied To Trade Agreements
Executive Order 13141 requires environmental review of trade agreements affecting the environment. The United States Trade Representative and the Center for Environmental Quality have promulgated guidelines implementing the Executive Order. 65 FR 79442. The USTR is now applying the Executive Order and the guidelines to specific trade agreements. Specifically, the USTR is soliciting public comment on environmental issues raised by the multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture and services in the World Trade Organization.

CRE believes that Executive Order 13141 provides an important regulatory precedent. CRE is now looking at ways to expand the Executive Order to include analysis required in Good Government laws such as the new Data Quality Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, and the Regulatory Flexibility Act. CRE believes that the important concerns underlying the Good Government laws apply with equal force to trade agreements.

  • Read a more detailed discussion of trade-agreement environmental review under the Clinton Executive Order and the USTR Guidelines.  
  • Read the USTR notice seeking comment on application of the Order and guidelines to the WTO agreement.
  • Read Executive Order 13141.
  • Read the USTR Guidelines implementing the Executive Order.
  • Comment on Item
  • View past CRE Regulatory Action of the Week items

    Environmental Review Executive Order Being Applied To Trade Agreements

    Former President Clinton signed Executive Order 13141 on November 18, 1999. 64 FR 63169. The Order requires assessment and consideration of the environmental impacts of certain trade agreements. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) oversee implementation of the Order. On December 19, 2000, The USTR and CEQ promulgated final guidelines implementing the Order. 65 FR 79442.

    The USTR and CEQ are now applying the Executive Order and Guidelines to specific trade agreements. On December 4, 2000, the USTR announced that it was formally initiating an environmental review of the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas, and solicited public comment on the review with the comment period ending January 19, 2001. 65 FR 75763. On April 25, 2001, the USTR announced that it was initiating environmental review of the multilateral trade negotiations on agriculture and services in the World Trade Organization, and solicited public comment on the review. The comment period on the WTO review ends July 27, 2001. 66 FR 20846.

    The Executive Order mandates environmental review for three categories of trade agreements:

    • Comprehensive multilateral trade rounds
    • Bilateral or plurilateral free trade agreements
    • Major new trade liberalization agreements in natural resource sectors

    Environmental review can also occur under the Order for other types of agreements based on the significance of reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts from the agreements.

    Environmental review under the Executive Order and Guidelines is similar to the review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. Like NEPA, the first step is scoping to identify environmental issues presented by a trade agreement. The next step is producing a written report identifying environmental issues; recommending mitigating actions in light of these issues; and providing the written report to the trade negotiators. The public is invited to participate throughout the process, but at a minimum at the following stages of the environmental review process:

    • Notice of Intent to Conduct Environmental Review
    • Notice of Intent to Initiate Environmental Review and Request for Comments on the scope of Environmental Review
    • Notice of Availability of the Draft Environmental Review document and Request for Comments (in the normal case where a draft ER document is prepared for public comment)
    • Notice of the availability of the Final Environmental Review document

    The USTR works with a subcommittee or working group of the Trade Policy Staff Committee to conduct the environmental review. This committee is established by federal statute, 19 U.S.C. 1872, as the principal staff-level mechanism for interagency decisionmaking on United States trade policy. The USTR chairs this committee, which also includes the following statutory members:

    • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
    • Department of Commerce (USDC)
    • Department of Labor (USDL)
    • Department of State (USDS)
    • Department of Treasury (USDT)

    "Invited members" of this committee include CEQ, Interior and EPA.

    Application of the Executive Order and its implementing Guidelines is just now beginning. CRE will continue to monitor and report on the this new and potentially very important regulatory development.