Although the project is receiving backing from the US government and the European Commission, John Hontelez of the EEB stressed that it would be an independent force that would monitor and lobby bilateral and international policy making. "We will use the dialogue to sort out exactly what our positions should be for the benefit of the environment," he said.
The environmental dialogue is the last of four forums to be organised under the auspices of an EU-US collaboration programme called the new transatlantic agenda, which has been in place since 1995. The others are in the fields of business, labour and consumer affairs. The TAED will be invited to make formal policy recommendations during biannual EU/US summits, the next of which will be held in Cologne in June.
In its first public statement, the TAED was at pains to stress that although it has been created "in response to bilateral initiatives" under the new transatlantic agenda, it was "in no way intended to legitimise these processes".
Robert Madelin, a senior official in the European Commission department dealing with relations with the USA (DG1), said the time was right to create the TAED, which he described as "the essential missing part of the policy making jigsaw". Preparatory talks for the next round of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Seattle in November would be an important focus for the new organisation, he said.
In a working paper on trade and the environment, the TAED says the business community has up to now had an unfair privileged access to senior policy makers, which has not been shared by NGOs. It calls for the transatlantic economic partnership - a bilateral EU/US talking shop discussing trade policy - to take more notice of environment issues and to put sustainable development at the heart of its agenda.
In addition to looking at trade issues, the TAED has identified four other key areas for its work programme: climate, biodiversity, agriculture and industry. Working groups have been set up to look at each of these issues.
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090.
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