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Trade Versus Environmental Divide

Bibek Debroy

By Anupam Goyal
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. xxvi 424, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 9 September 2006

The WTO’s website states the following. “Issues relating to trade, the environment and sustainable development more generally, have been discussed in the GATT and in the WTO for many years. Environment is a horizontal issue that cuts across different rules and disciplines in WTO. The issue has been considered by Members both in terms of the impact of environmental policies on trade, and of the impact of trade on the environment.” Yes, indeed. Before the Stockholm Conference in 1972, the GATT Secretariat prepared a study in 1971 on “Industrial Pollution Control and International Trade”, flagging what today would be called green protectionism. The Group on Environmental Measures and Trade (EMIT) was also set up in 1971, although it did not meet for 20 years. But there were several reasons why the environment was becoming important as an issue. First, Article XX of GATT had in any case allowed exceptions on grounds on protecting the environment. Second, the Tokyo Round (1973-79) led to the agreement on technical barriers to trade (TBT) and the Uruguay Round (1986-94) contributed an agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), apart from environmental clauses in agreements on agriculture, subsidies and countervailing measures, intellectual property and services, not to speak of the Preamble to the WTO agreement.   Third, there was the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, leading to the Brundtland Report (which made sustainable development a fashionable expression) and the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 (the Earth Summit). Fourth, within GATT, there was a Working Group on the Export of Domestically Produced Goods and Other Hazardous Substances. Fifth, since 1995, there has been the Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), following the Ministerial Declaration in 1994. Sixth, in 1991, the tuna-dolphin dispute between Mexico and the United States was taken to GATT, the first of several such disputes on gasoline, shrimp-turtle and several other environment-related disputes. Seventh, there are several multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), thus raising questions of compatibility between MEAs and WTO’s rules and jurisprudence. Eighth, at the Doha (2001) Ministerial Conference, the CTE was instructed to focus on three specific aspects – the effects of environmental measures on market access, relevant provisions of the TRIPs (trade-related intellectual property rights) agreement and labelling requirements for environmental purposes. This was paragraph 32 of the Doha Ministerial Declaration. In addition, there was paragraph 31, setting out parameters for some limited negotiations on trade and the environment – relationship between WTO rules and MEAs (without ...

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