Bush To Reinstate Environmental Reviews for Trade Deals

The Bush administration said Friday it has decided it will abide by a Clinton-era executive order that subjects future trade agreements to environmental reviews.

``Environmental reviews are an important policy tool for involving the public in the development of the U.S. government's trade objectives and policies,'' the office of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said in a release announcing the decision.

Former President Clinton issued an executive order in 1999 requiring that trade deals be reviewed for their potential environmental impact. Guidelines to carry out the directive were put into place last December in the closing weeks of the previous administration.

However, the Bush administration as one of its first acts in office halted the initiation of an environmental review that would have covered global trade talks currently under way in the areas of agriculture and services.

The new administration said it wanted time to conduct a broad-based review of a number of last-minute regulations and policies enacted by the Clinton team.

In its decision announced Friday, the USTR statement said that the administration had decided to allow the environmental review on the agriculture and services agreement to proceed.

The administration said it would also continue with environmental reviews begun by the Clinton team on free trade agreements currently being negotiated with Singapore and Chile and the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the proposed hemisphere-wide free trade zone that President Bush was discussing this weekend with 33 other leaders in Quebec City, Quebec.

The environmental review idea was put forward by Clinton as a way to answer critics who contended that trade agreements focused solely on removing barriers to the flow of goods and services and neglected other issues such as protection of the environment and worker rights.

Anti-globalization protesters clashed with police in Quebec City on Friday, delaying the start of the three-day summit.