V. MULTILATERAL TRADE AND ENVIRONMENT AGREEMENTS
A. Uruguay Round negotiations
The Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations was launched on 15 September 1986 at Punta del Este with a package of agreements that, after seven years, was signed at the Marrakech Ministerial Meeting in April 1994 and brought into effect in January 1995. The agreements encompass issues and subjects not directly related to international trade but falling within domestic policy-making and involving choices that ought to be in the autonomous decision-making power of States and their peoples. The Uruguay Round reached two relevant agreements, one for general government regulations covering products (Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade) and the second dealing specifically with food, animal and plant health and safety (Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures). The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade applies a "least trade restrictive test" to national regulations. It also requires that national regulations be based on relevant international standards, whereas the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures applies a "modified least-trade restrictive test", and further requires that measures be necessary and based on scientific principles.
Although the Uruguay Round did not include the environment as part of its original mandate in 1986, it does bear on trade-environment issues. In addition to the two new agreements concerning product standards, the Subsidies Code was modified to explicitly make some types of environmental subsidies non-actionable (i.e., non-countervailable), but only subject to specific limitations. The concept of a subsidy was also clarified by limiting GATT rules to financial contributions by governments, making it even less likely that a countervailing duty against an implicit environmental subsidy (e.g., an artificially low environmental standard) would be found GATT-legal. Other relevant provisions deal with indirect taxes, agricultural subsidies, labelling requirements and dispute settlement. The Uruguay Round Agreement also formally established the Trade and Environment Committee, and gave the Committee a work programme that required a report and review by the end of 1996. All those GATT/WTO activities are of considerable interest to trade sectors and the Government of Malaysia.