Talking Points on the Environment #17

International Treaty Hammers U.S. Sovereignty, Jobs

U.S. sovereignty and jobs are at risk thanks to a little-known international treaty called the Basel Convention. The Basel Convention on Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Waste, designed ostensibly to prevent industrialized nations from dumping hazardous materials on unsuspecting developing nations, was signed in March 1992 and subsequently ratified by twenty-four industrialized nations. Although President George Bush signed and the U.S. Senate ratified the Convention in 1992, it was never fully implemented because Congress has yet to pass enabling legislation -- and it never should.

Here's why:

Basel Would Destroy Jobs. The scrap industry, which currently employees 350,000 people and generates $38 billion in revenue, would be devastated by the Convention. The Convention severely restricts or outright bans the export of such recyclables as computer parts and even second-hand clothing to developing nations.

Basel Would Threaten U.S. Sovereignty. Basel gives an international body the authority to determine to what country and in what commodities the U.S. can trade. The Basel Convention establishes two classes of people in the world -- the 24 leading industrialized nations and the developing world -- and bars trade in a large range of materials and commodities between the two.

Basel Would Harm the Environment. By increasing the regulation and costs of trade in waste materials, the Basel Convention would make recycling more expensive. Rather than shipping waste overseas for recycling, industry would simply dump more waste. As a result, unsalvaged lead, gold, silver and iron would have to be obtained elsewhere -- out of the earth.

Basel Would Hurt Those Who Can Least Afford It. Between March 1989 and April 1994, the world's 24 leading industrialized nations exported 2.6 million tons of waste materials -- much of it to poor, developing nations which see trade in waste materials as a much-needed source of revenue. Companies in Guatemala have established a consortium to import industrial waste for recycling while Malaysia and Albania have built waste treatment facilities to cash-in on the waste trade.

Basel's Goal is to End Industrial Production. Greenpeace was one of the key forces behind the Basel Convention and it's clear that they see the treaty as far more than a means of preventing developing nations from becoming the industrial nations' waste dump. As reported by environmental attorney John Bullock of Handy and Harman: ". . . the chief Greenpeace representative stated at a press conference on the final day [of the Basel Conference] that having achieved the trade ban, he looked forward to the primary purpose of the Basel Convention -- the control of industrial production within parties to the convention, so as to eliminate the generation of waste." Waste can only be eliminated if industrial production is eliminated.

Information from "The Basel Convention: Internationalism's Greatest Folly," by Ray Evans (Competitive Enterprise Institute, May 1995) and Multinational Monitor, April 1994

Issue Date: August 15, 1995.

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #17, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 Tel. (202) 543-4110, Fax (202)543-5975, [email protected], http://www.nationalcenter/inter.net. For more information about Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #17 contact Bob Adams at 202/543-4110 or [email protected]


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