Before 1991, the relationship between the protection of the environment and international trade was an arcane specialty that attracted little attention. In 1971 the GATT Council established a Working Group on Environmental Measures and International Trade. This group did not even meet for over twenty years.
Everything changed with the decision in the Tuna/Dolphin I case, in which a GATT dispute resolution panel declared a United States embargo on tuna caught by fishing methods causing high dolphin mortality to be illegal. The Tuna/Dolphin I decision produced an explosion of rhetoric in both learned journals and the popular press. It was also a very interesting clash of very different “cultures,” trade specialists versus environmentalists. At die outset, neither group knew much about the other. Now, however, the legal and political issues have been identified and ventilated, mutual understanding has increased, and the process has begun to reconcile two values that are absolutely essential to the well-being of mankind: protection of the environment and international free trade.