Toward a New Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy in Focus, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Toward a New Foreign Policy


Rapid U.S. ratification of the Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions will spur other nations to join in meeting the goal of ratification by 50 countries before September 2002. The U.S. played a key role in initiating the international discussions that ultimately led to the Stockholm Convention, and it would be fitting for Washington to play a leadership role in ensuring that the toxics treaty is ratified.

If the treaties are to successfully traverse the required U.S. legislative procedures by the end of this year, the Bush administration and the Senate leadership must make a serious and immediate commitment to ratifying both conventions. President Bush and the State Department made a public commitment in April to move forward rapidly with ratification of the Stockholm Convention; several Senate offices have indicated interest in rapidly ratifying the treaty as well, and they are open to inclusion of the Rotterdam Convention in the ratification process. The NGO community will be tracking progress toward ratification with great interest and cautious optimism.

The first step to be taken by national governments under the Stockholm Convention will be the development of national implementation plans outlining how each country will meet the treaty objectives. Many countries are initiating national implementation plans even before the convention comes into force; in developing countries, these early efforts are supported by interim funding for convention implementation through the Global Environment Facility. In order to demonstrate a commitment to treaty implementation and to move forward with the treaty objectives, the U.S. should immediately initiate development of a national implementation plan.

The primary focus of a U.S. national implementation plan should involve moving toward the elimination of POPs byproducts. Dioxins and furans pose a tremendous health risk, and strategies that support their elimination are strongly opposed by representatives of the chlorine and incineration industries. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to release a dioxin reassessment in the coming months, and this document could potentially form the cornerstone of the U.S. national implementation plan. The report, however, has been plagued by years of controversy and delay.

Public interest groups tracking the EPA's work reviewing dioxins assert that the agency's analysis is based on methods inferior to new analytical tools developed in Europe for long-term monitoring of dioxins. The EPA's recommendations are expected to focus on end-of-the-pipe controls and minimization rather than the materials-substitution policies mandated by the Stockholm Convention. In addition, the EPA is not likely to recommend a phaseout of incineration, a major source of dioxin contaminants in the United States. An effective U. …

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