EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson will today open the European Commission's international Stocktaking Conference on Trade Sustainability Impact Assessments. Up to 400 participants from 60 countries will discuss progress made by the Commission in its efforts to gauge the potential impact of trade negotiations on sustainable development. French trade Minister Christine Lagarde also addressed the conference.

Before opening the conference, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said: "The European Union’s trade negotiations can only be judged by results; but results mean more than markets opened and profits made.

If the Sustainability Impact Assessment Programme is to make sense, it has to be more than a cosmetic exercise - it has to help us make trade deals that are rooted in development and sustainable growth. I believe our assessment procedures have changed the direction of our trade policy and shaped priorities in trade negotiations. They have also provided a new and growing set of guidelines for future negotiations."

Commissioner Mandelson cited the example of the recent Sustainability Impact Assessment work on the negotiations on forestry products in the Doha Round. The study concludes that liberalisation in the forestry sector brings opportunities, providing adequate regulation is introduced and local capacities for forest regeneration are considered. Without these considerations, accelerated liberalisation and illegal logging bring short term gains at the price of longer term deforestation and environmental strain. On the basis of this analysis, Commissioner Mandelson argued:

"I cannot see us carving out the forestry sector for faster liberalisation in the Doha Round". In 2006 the European Commission will launch Sustainability Impact Assessments on its trade negotiations with Mercosur and the Ukraine. Commissioner Mandelson also welcomed to a recent study by the Carnegie Endowment study on the development aspects of the Doha negotiations entitled "Winners and Losers: Impact of the DDA on Developing Countries". Noting that the study warned against a simplistic approach to the benefits of liberalisation for developing countries Commissioner Mandelson said such studies should play a key role in shaping the assumptions of negotiators.