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  • Print publication year: 2000
  • Online publication date: May 2010

6 - “Environmental protection and the global trade order”: a different perspective

Summary

Introduction

This chapter addresses the first three of the four issues analyzed by Professor Roessler: exempting domestic environmental policies from WTO obligations, permitting WTO Members to offset differences in environmental regulations, and reforming the WTO to allow the use of sanctions to coerce WTO Members into raising their environmental standards. On the fourth issue discussed by Professor Roessler – that the WTO should open its decisionmaking to scrutiny by environmental organizations – I have nothing to add to what he and others have already said.

Exempting domestic environmental policies from WTO obligations

Should domestic environmental policy be generally exempt from having to comply with the multilateral trading rules? The argument in favor of this proposal seems to be that the exemption would increase the demand for environmental policies by politicians, and that this would be good for the environment, even if it were not good for trade. In fact, the exemption would potentially be disastrous for trade, as it amounts to a giant loophole in the trading regime. And there can be no presumption that the environment would be any better protected, either. The point is that, under this regime, environmental policy would serve the cause of protectionism. Environmental policy would be devised not only or perhaps even mainly to protect the environment but to protect domestic industry (at the expense, perhaps, of foreign industry). There can be no presumption that policies which protect markets would necessarily protect the environment.

Up to here, Professor Roessler and I are in agreement.