Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Ron Walli (wallira@ornl.gov)
Communications and External Relations


ORNL work may result in better trade agreements

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., March 21, 1996 — Work being done by researchers at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) may have worldwide significance when it comes to negotiating trade agreements among nations.

Warren Webb and Bill Schramm of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division are preparing a report to recommend methods for evaluating environmental consequences of trade agreements. The report for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was requested by a United Nations task force. Previously, EPA was involved in assessing environmental effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

"Historically, environmental effects have not been adequately identified and evaluated when countries negotiated trade agreements," Webb said. As a result, trade agreements that helped a country's economy sometimes hurt its environment and the long-term welfare of its people. For example, a trade agreement that encouraged export of timber could increase deforestation, erosion and devaluation of land, he said.

In the past, there hasn't been a reliable system or method to consider environmental impacts of proposed trade agreements. Webb's report, which is very general in scope, is designed to provide EPA's Office of Federal Activities with the methods and context necessary to evaluate trade agreements.

Webb, who is internationally known for work in ecology, environmental analysis and environmental policy formation, expects to finish the report early in 1996. The report will consider methods to identify and evaluate environmental issues in trade agreements. Such issues include economic growth and economic development; environmental protection and production efficiency; environmental protection standards; effects on debt; domestic vs. transboundary pollution and regulation; and trade support facilities, such as ports, new roads and railroads.

ORNL, one of DOE's multiprogram national research and development facilities, is managed by Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp.