CIESIN Thematic Guides

Regional Economic Integration Organizations

Regional economic integration organizations are institutions through which countries seek to improve their economic development by agreeing to treat other member states preferentially in trade and other matters. Economic integration organizations may establish common standards and practices in a variety of areas, including environmental policies.

The oldest and most developed regional economic integration organization is the European Union (EU), formerly the European Community (EC). Under the terms of The Maastricht Treaty (European Union 1992) and previous agreements, the EU has moved toward increasing economic and social integration. With this integration has come an increase in EU activity related to the environment, both for EU issues and in global negotiations such as the Montreal Protocol and the Climate Convention. Trade and the Environment, a U.S. Office of Technology Assessment report (1992), explains EC internal environmental regulations and practice. Haigh (1991) describes the EC's role in international affairs in "The European Community and International Environmental Policy," and Wynne (1993) discusses EU implementation of the Climate Convention objectives in "Implementation of Greenhouse Gas Reductions in the European Community."

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is another important regional economic integration organization. Although not as developed as EU in its integration structures, ASEAN has also addressed environmental issues as a collective entity. ASEAN established a committee on environmental issues in 1977 to organize regional policy and programs. Tolba et al. (1992) describe the ASEAN committee and its activities in an excerpt from The World Environment 1972-1992. ASEAN's 1985 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Environment and 1987 Jakarta Resolution on Sustainable Development placed environmental considerations in ASEAN's official policy.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is not strictly a regional organization (with a membership of 24 industrialized countries including Japan, the EU and United States), and its efforts toward integration are not binding in the same sense as the EU or ASEAN. The OECD is active, however, in seeking harmonization of environmental standards related to trade practices. OECD's 1972 Principles were a fairly early effort at linking environmental and trade policies. In 1991 OECD issued an environmental policy committing OECD members to support sustainable development, work with non-OECD members on sustainable economic and population practices, and pursue more efficient energy consumption policies, among other principles. Tolba et al. (1992) describe the policy in an excerpt from The World Environment 1972-1992. de Miramon and Stevens (1992) review OECD's environment-related activities in "Policy Balance."