The warming of the planet and global climatic change has been the centre of heated debate for the last few years. The environmental problems, by the force of nature, somehow set themselves to the political agenda of the planet. In this paper I'd like to see if the concepts of trade and environment protection often cited as opposite are really antagonist, or if in the contrary, there could be a harmonious development of the two concepts. In my second part, I'd like to answer the question whether the WTO, faced to both aspects, chooses to favour trade over environment or if it has a pro environment sensibility. Pollution is commonly seen as the result of market imperfection. Indeed, the market is unable to adjust its prices to take into account two fundamental features of the human social life. The first of those features is the three functions of the environment, that is to say a consumption good, a supplier of resources and a receptacle of waste (Butler, 2000, p434) and the second one is the public nature of a good like environment (no one owns for example what we could call fresh air).
[...] It reads as follows : ‘that their relations in the field of trade and economic endeavour should be conducted with a view to raising standards of living, ensuring full employment and a large and steadily growing volume of real income and effective demand, and expanding the production of and trade in goods and services, while allowing for the optimal use of the world's resources in accordance with the objective of sustainable development, seeking both to protect and preserve the environment and to enhance the means for doing so in a manner consistent with their respective needs and concerns at different levels of economic development. [...]
[...] According to a 1999 report of the WTO on environment and trade ‘trade liberalization can harm local environment in countries with a comparative advantage in polluting industries and improve the local environment elsewhere' (quoted by Charnovitz p529). This statement implies that countries possessing an advantage in polluting industries are highly likely to harm their environment in focusing only in this particular type of industry. A few years later, the position of the WTO, expressed in a report to the Cancun WTO Ministerial Meeting, has somehow changed: was generally recognized that improved market access for developing countries' products was key to the goal of achieving sustainable development' (quoted by Bernstein p253). [...]
[...] It means that the WTO is ready to set barriers to trade if the environment is truthfully threatened, and at the same time shows itself more and more critical towards the open measures of protectionism. Conclusion After having being considered as one of the institutional face of the trade liberalism, the WTO could be, if it maintains its goals to combine maximum freedom of trade with minimum damage to the environment, as an institutional face of the liberal environmentalism. One of its forthcoming hottest issues will be to deal with the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, and to see whether the choice of a market for the greenhouse gazes emissions was good or not. [...]
[...] Those two cases both involved the USA and are known as the tuna/dolphin and the shrimp/turtle rulings. Both cases are quite similar and are in my opinion accountable for the general atmosphere that was floating in the corridors of the GATT and is now in those of the WTO. In the 1991 ‘tuna/dolphin, a dispute launched by Mexico, a GATT panel ruled that US regulations outlawing imported tuna caught in nets that endangered dolphins violated GATT rules that protected sovereignty' (Bernstein p254). [...]
[...] The second country will benefit from the situation as he will be able to improve his trade balance, benefiting from the niche open by the regulations in the first country. This reveals the important question of the costs of the environmental protection. Some countries are less prone than others to need environmental protection. Their needs vary in function of several factors, including the geographical organization of the space, the period of time for which the country has been industrialized (the industry being seen as the most polluting sector of the economy) and some physical features of the countries geography. [...]
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