Media Center

Press Release


  February 18, 2005

A historic environmental cooperation agreement was signed during a formal ceremony at OAS Headquarters today by seven member governments of the Organization of American States (OAS)—Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the United States.

The Understanding Regarding the Establishment of a Secretariat for Environmental Matters under the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) was signed along with an Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. The Understanding, intended to promote sound environmental practices, seeks to institute a mechanism to aid in the implementation of the environmental provisions of CAFTA while the Agreement establishes a framework for cooperation in environmental protection.

Paula Dobriansky, the US Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, described the historic agreements as taking the countries “one step closer to removing the obstacles to trade,” saying such obstacles impede citizens’ industriousness and productivity. “Agreements such as this help build understanding of the benefits of free trade in the region.”

According to Dobriansky, a holistic view of the economic relationships between and among the nations is important to trade agreements. “We should focus on enhancing the capacity for effective and smart environmental regulations and enforcement; for public participation and transparency; for sound environmental management systems; for leveraging the very power of civil society and the private sector, through public-private partnerships; and for market-based approaches to achieve environmental results with greater efficiency.” Assistant United States Trade Representative for the Americas, Regina Vargo, stressed that “environmental capacity building should go hand in hand with trade negotiations.” In this regard these instruments set a precedent.

Speaking on behalf of the Central American signatory states, Honduran Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patricia Panting Galo said the instruments signed today reflect a shared commitment to promote free trade in harmony with sustainable development. “The region’s environment and natural resources are the winners,” she declared, noting this is the first international trade agreement to incorporate a chapter specifically on the environment.

Carlos Arturo Harding Lacayo, Nicaragua’s Environment and Natural Resources Minister, hailed the agreement, declaring, “It will allow our nations to substantially enhance our environmental capacity as well as our environmental and natural resource management efforts.” He said the Central American countries will do their best to ensure effective participation by all the members of the Environmental Cooperation Committee provided for in the agreement.

Brian Stevenson, Executive Secretary for Integral Development at the OAS, who hosted the ceremony, stressed in his remarks the agreement’s “unprecedented” potential to promote growth, create jobs, reduce poverty and improve living standards in the Dominican Republic and Central America. “DR-CAFTA also promises to reduce the uncertainty of unilateral preferences, to expand market access, to strengthen transparency, and to help build long-term partnerships based on mutual confidence.”

Mr. Stevenson explained that the OAS is currently working in a number of areas of direct relevance to the priorities identified in the agreements, including: supporting public participation in policies; strengthening environmental law and its enforcement; understanding the effects that trade may have on environmental quality and institutions at the national level, and building trade-related capacity.

The senior officials who signed the Agreement and the Understanding on behalf of their respective governments were: for Costa Rica, Ambassador to the OAS Luis Guardia; for the Dominican Republic, Flavio Darío Espinal, Ambassador to the United States; for El Salvador, Yolanda Mayora de Gavidia, Minister of the Economy; for Guatemala, José Guillermo Castillo, Ambassador to the United States; for Honduras, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Patricia Panting Galo and Industry and Commerce Minister Norman García; for Nicaragua, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Carlos Arturo Harding Lacayo and Ambassador to the OAS Carmen Marina Gutiérrez; and for the United States, Paula Dobriansky, Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, and Regina Vargo, Assistant US Trade Representative for the Americas.

Reference: E-028/05