The Legality of PPMs under the GATT: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Trade Policy

By Jason Potts, Jason Potts on February 28, 2008
Since the Tuna-Dolphin cases in the mid-'90s, the treatment of process and production methods (PPMs) under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), and subsequently the World Trade Organization (WTO), has been a pivotal point of debate and controversy for environmentalists, policy-makers and industry alike. And while governments and other stakeholders have since openly recognized the importance of policy which takes into account the nature of the processing and production methods, a general myth on the illegality of PPM-based policies within the WTO has persisted. Following an examination of the alleged grounds for this conclusion, as well as recent decisions by the WTO Appellate Body, the paper concludes not only that there is no basis for the assumption that PPM-based policy is a priori illegal under the WTO, but also that the legality of any given measure is favoured by taking guidance from basic principles of sustainable development such as economic efficiency, science-based decision-making and international cooperation. Building from this observation, the paper concludes by outlining a series of targeted strategies for the design of WTO-compliant PPM policy.

Publication details

IISD, 2008