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Trade Policy Staff Committee; Initiation of Environmental Review of Central America Free Trade Negotiations; Public Comments on Scope of Environmental Review

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Office of the United States Trade Representative.


Notice and request for comments.


This publication gives notice that, pursuant to the Trade Act of 2002, and consistent with Executive Order 13141 (64 FR 63169) (Nov. 18, 1999) and its implementing guidelines (65 FR 79442), the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), through the Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC), is initiating an environmental review of the proposed United States-Central America Free Trade Agreement (US-CAFTA). The TPSC is requesting written comments from the public on what should be included in the scope of the environmental review, including the potential environmental effects that might flow from the free trade agreement and the potential implications for U.S. environmental laws and regulations, and identification of complementarities between trade and environmental objectives such as the promotion of sustainable development. The TPSC also welcomes public views on appropriate methodologies and sources of data for conducting the review. Persons submitting written comments should provide as much detail as possible on the degree to which the subject matter they propose for inclusion in the review may raise significant environmental issues in the context of the negotiation.


Public comments should be received no later than January 15, 2003.


Submissions by electronic mail:

Submissions by facsimile: Gloria Blue, Executive Secretary, Trade Policy Staff Committee, at (202) 395-6143.

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For procedural questions concerning public comments, contact Gloria Blue, Executive Secretary, TPSC, Office of the USTR, 1724 F Street, NW., Washington, DC 20508, telephone (202) 395-3475. Questions concerning the environmental review should be addressed to Jonathan Fritz, Environment and Natural Resources Section, USTR, telephone (202) 395-7320.

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1. Background Information

On October 1, 2002, in accordance with section 2104(a)(1) of the Trade Act of 2002, the United States Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick, notified the Congress of the President's intent to enter into trade negotiations with the five member countries (i.e., Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua) of the Central American Economic Integration System (CAEIS). Ambassador Zoellick outlined U.S. objectives for the US-CAFTA in the notification letters to the Congress. The letters to House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd can be found on the USTR Website at​releases/​2002/​2002-10-01-centralamerica-house.PDF and​releases/​2002/​2002-10-01-centralamerica-senate.PDF, respectively. The TPSC invited the public to provide written comments and/or oral testimony at a public hearing on the proposed US-CAFTA scheduled for November 19, 2002, to assist USTR in formulating positions and proposals with respect to all aspects of the negotiations (67 FR 63954).

US-CAFTA will build on the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). Since 1985, the U.S. trade relationship with Central America has been driven by U.S. unilateral trade preferences through the CBI. By moving from unilateral trade preferences to a reciprocal FTA, the US-CAFTA will seek to eliminate duties and unjustified barriers to trade in both U.S.- and Central American-origin goods and also address trade in services, trade in agricultural products, investment, trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, government procurement, trade-related environmental and labor matters, and other issues. US-CAFTA is expected to contribute to stronger economies, the rule of law, sustainable development, and more accountable institutions of governance, complementing ongoing domestic, bilateral, and multilateral efforts in the region. Finally, US-CAFTA will lend momentum to concluding the Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations by January 2005.

Two-way trade in goods between the United States and the member countries of the CAEIS totaled $20 billion in 2001, consisting of $9 billion in U.S. exports and $11 billion in U.S. imports. Leading U.S. exports to Central America include apparel products, machinery, electrical machinery and equipment, and plastics. Leading U.S. imports from Central America include apparel and textile products and edible fruits.

2. Environmental Review

USTR, through the TPSC, will perform an environmental review of the agreement pursuant to the Trade Act of 2002 and consistent with Executive Order 13141 (64 FR 63169) and its implementing guidelines (65 FR 79442).

Environmental reviews are used to identify potentially significant, reasonably foreseeable environmental impacts (both positive and negative), and information from the review can help facilitate consideration of appropriate responses where impacts are identified. Reviews address potential environmental impacts of the proposed agreement and potential implications for environmental laws and regulations. Determining the review's scope includes consideration of the environmental dimensions of the Start Printed Page 70476regulatory and trade policies at issue, including ways in which the trade agreement can complement U.S. environmental objectives. The focus of the review is on impacts in the United States, although global and transboundary impacts may be considered, where appropriate and prudent.

3. Requirements for Submissions

In order to facilitate prompt processing of submissions, USTR strongly urges and prefers electronic (e-mail) submissions in response to this notice.

Persons making submissions by e-mail should use the following subject line: “US-CAFTA Environmental Review” followed by “Written Comments.” Documents should be submitted as either WordPerfect, MSWord, or text (.TXT) files. Supporting documentation submitted as spreadsheets are acceptable as Quattro Pro or Excel. For any document containing business confidential information submitted electronically, the file name of the business confidential version should begin with the characters “BC-”, and the file name of the public version should begin with the characters “P-”. The “P-” or “BC-” should be followed by the name of the submitter. Persons who make submissions by e-mail should not provide separate cover letters; information that might appear in a cover letter should be included in the submission itself. To the extent possible, any attachments to the submission should be included in the same file as the submission itself, and not as separate files.

Written comments submitted in response to this request will be placed in a file open to public inspection pursuant to 15 CFR 2003.5, except business confidential information exempt from public inspection in accordance with 15 CFR 2003.6. Business confidential information submitted in accordance with 15 CFR 2003.6 must be clearly marked “BUSINESS CONFIDENTIAL” at the top of each page, including any cover letter or cover page, and must be accompanied by a nonconfidential summary of the confidential information. All public documents and nonconfidential summaries shall be available for public inspection in the USTR Reading Room. The USTR Reading Room is open to the public, by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. An appointment to review the file must be scheduled at least 48 hours in advance and may be made by calling (202) 395-6186.

USTR also welcomes and will take into account the public comments on US-CAFTA environmental issues submitted in response to a previous notice—the Federal Register notice dated October 16, 2002 (67 FR 63954) requesting comments from the public to assist USTR in formulating positions and proposals with respect to all aspects of the negotiations, including environmental issues. These comments will also be made available for public inspection. General information concerning the Office of the United States Trade Representative may be obtained by accessing its Internet Web site (

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Carmen Suro-Bredie,

Chair, Trade Policy Staff Committee.

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[FR Doc. 02-29691 Filed 11-21-02; 8:45 am]