Authors: Elizabeth De Sombre , Suzi Kerr
This report was produced for the Ministry for the Environment
Trade and environment issues are economically important, emotionally laden, and complex in the face of scientific and legal uncertainties. These issues are of particular interest to New Zealand because of our high level of environmental concern, our unique geographical location, and our high level of economic dependence on agricultural and other resource based production such as forestry, fisheries and tourism.
New Zealand has strong economic and environmental interests in having the international community successfully address several international environmental issues including those relating to bio-safety and genetic modification (GM), ozone depletion, biodiversity, ocean mammals, endangered species, sustainable forestry and fishing (especially drift net fishing), and climate change. At the same time, New Zealand has strong interests in international trade and especially free trade in agricultural products. These economic concerns can be complementary to our environmental interests where freer trade will lead to improved environmental conditions elsewhere or where trade restrictions to protect the environment confer economic advantage on us.
In other cases our different interests will conflict. Trade restrictions imposed for seemingly legitimate international environmental purposes might used to camouflage or provide precedents for protectionist trade barriers used against New Zealand products. Alternatively we might want to limit imports but find ourselves constrained by the rules of international agreements. When negotiating, we need to be clear where our interests lie, and the nature of the potential tradeoffs between our different interests. In addition, as always, we need to negotiate within the parameters of international law and taking into account the interests and responses of other countries.