III. MECHANISMS FOR INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS INTO AGRICULTURAL POLICY
E. Mechanisms on trade and environment
Malaysia has an open and export-oriented economy. The export sector has contributed significantly to economic growth; its share of GDP increased from about 50 per cent in 1970 to more than 81 per cent in 1990. Malaysia has increasingly diversified its exports in terms of products and markets, the result of which has been large changes in the composition of exports. For example, the share of rubber and tin, which accounted for 33 and 20 per cent respectively of the value of total exports in 1970, declined to 3 and 1 per cent respectively in 1990. Crude petroleum, palm oil and timber are currently the most important commodities in terms of export values.
The demand for improved environmental quality is being taken into account by policy makers. In Malaysia, one of the mechanisms that provide the public with a role in decision-making is the imposition of custom duties under subsection 11 (1) of the Customs Act, 1967, which came into force on 1 January 1994.
Decisions taken by countries to protect their environment can increase the costs of their products, thus limiting exports or, where product standards are involved, creating barriers to imports. International organizations have helped to prevent environmental constraints from becoming non-tariff barriers to trade. That role is important for a number of products such as rubber, cocoa, palm oil, food products and chemicals. A common code of good laboratory practice would be an agreement to undertake tests according to standard methods and other joint actions, which would lead to more effective environmental protection and the reduction of potential trade barriers. However, the implementation of such laws has sometimes been held up by court battles.
In international forums, Malaysia has taken a firm position against the use of unilateral trade measures for environmental purposes. The report prepared by the Government of Malaysia within the framework of the GATT Trade Policy Review Mechanism points out that "a major concern for Malaysia is the increasing use of unilateral measures for reasons of environment. The environment could and has been used as a convenient cover for protectionist motives. An even more dangerous trend is the use of unilateral measures such as eco-labelling to restrict imports of products to impose a country’s own environmental standards on a third country, merely because it originates from a country with environmental policies and standards different from its own".
Under the federal Constitution, the country's representations at international forums are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The role and responsibility of the federal government is to service each forum by identifying the appropriate federal agency to function as the scientific authority and management authority, and by coordinating the work of agencies at federal and State levels to ensure that they fulfil the obligations to which they are committed.
While the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment plays a major role in the implementation of international Conventions related to environmental management, all trade and environmental issues come under the purview of the Ministry of International Trade and Industries. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the establishment of national-level steering committees and technical committees that will guide and advise on the implementation of international Conventions in Malaysia.