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A research proposal for the Masters Thesis; Environment and Trade in the Word Trade Organization

  1. Definition of the problem and motivation of its importance
  2. General Background of the problem Studied: the trade and environment debate: sources of conflict in the GATT/WTO
  3. Description of the different theories that will be implemented for the thesis
  4. Review of the relevant empirical and theoretical literature
  5. Methods used

The global environmental issues include climate change, ozone depletion, marine dumping, deforestation, and biodiversity. However the objective of my thesis is not to provide detailed scientific treatment of the nature of the major environmental challenges facing the world , but rather to explore the interaction between Trade and Environment. Actually, as Annie Taylor explains in her book, Global Trade and Global Social Issues, there is a debate between Trade and Environment which has emerged in 1980’s. Since 1980’s, global environmental issues are rising against international political and economic agendas. Awareness of environmental issues has moved from isolated incidence with a national or local focus to an understanding of a global crisis that links environmental degradation to current development patterns, and especially Trade. Thus, Chatterjee and Finger, two writers argue that global environment ‘were actually a far more serious challenge and critique of industrial development than anything else that came before.’
In response to the increase of environmental issues, institutions have responded with some reports, like the Brundtland report. These reports explained the link between environment and development and introduce for the first time the concept of sustainable development.

This concept will be developed deeply with Porter and Welsh Brown in 1991 in their book, Global Environmental Politics. Consequently, at the beginning of the 1980’s, environmental issues, as biophysical changes, began to be implemented in the global environment agenda. However environmental issues linked to international trade were not considered as relevant. Then, at the beginning of 1991, an important event, the breakdown of the Uruguay Round of GATT talks, have forced to consider Trade and environment as a specific issue. By the way, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has decided to develop a working group on Environmental Measures in International Trade (EMIT).

[...] However, this approach has some problems because international law only applies to governments and has no effective sanctions when the country refuses to sign a treaty. For instance, France has rejected the International Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Consequently, we can assert that governments accept some international laws but reject others for political reasons. And we understand that the political aspect is missing from this legal approach. Second, due to the neutral approach, international law accepts the definition of sustainable development as starting point of this assumption where trade and environment are supporting themselves.[10] Considering sustainable development as a starting point of this assumption contribute to implement sustainable development as a part of ‘common sense’. [...]


[...] In response to this concern, in November 1971, the GATT council of representatives has decided to establish a Group on Environmental Measures and International Trade, known as the EMIT group. Until 1991, this group has not been activated. However, there were other developments within the GATT: - 1973/1979: Tokyo Round of Trade Negotiations: negotiation on the agreement on technical barriers to trade, known as ‘Standards code’, in order to avoid those environmental measures will become obstacles to trade. - 1989: Establishment of Working Group on the Export of Domestically Prohibited Goods and Other Hazardous Substances. [...]


[...] In this way, we will study the different kind of policy recommendations concerning the CTE categorized like assessment of environmental impacts, establishing a special environmental negotiation group, seeking NGO participation, realizing win-win opportunities and also ensuring that environmental standards and schemes do not restrict market access for developing countries.[22] References - Reports Report by the commission on Environment and Development (WCED): Our Common Future, known as the Brundtland report. - Websites: 1. WTO website: http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/envir_e/envir_e.htm 2. Linda Hantrais and Marie Thèrese Letablier , Institut of Social Research, www.ires-fr.org - Books 1. Andrew Hurrell and Benedict Kingsbury, (1992), The international politics of the environment, oxford university press 2. Annie Taylor and Caroline Thomas, Global Trade and Global social issues, Routledge 3. Chatterjee and finger, The Earth brokers: Power, Politics and World Development 4. [...]


[...] First, some prioritize the protection of the environment above the principle of Free Trade, called environmentalists. Second are those who think that liberalization of Trade is more important, called Free Traders. However, this debate cannot be understand as a regular conflict between free-traders and environmentalists or between North and South. Consequently, we assert that the debate between trade and environment has to be managed. The aim of my thesis is to contribute to a better understanding of the debate between trade and environment. [...]


[...] Now, we can observe that the neo-liberal regime has been accepted by most of institutions and organizations. Actually, the term “sustainable development” is also legitimizing due to the common sense by many NGOs. These NGOs are seeking an alternative approach to the trade and environment issue. Though their participation in an agenda that agreed the neo-liberal regime, NGOs have implicitly accepted existing trade and environment practices. Some NGOs which are too much radical don’t want engage in this agenda and consequently can not participate to the trade and environment debate. [...]

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