Trade and the Environment: The linkages and the politics

By Konrad von Moltke on January 27, 2002
The environment has entered the World Trade Organization against sustained resistance. The first beginning was inauspicious to say the least: In 1972 the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) decided to create a committee to address environmental issues in trade. This was presumably a defensive move in response to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm that year. It was designed to ensure that any trade-related environmental matters would be decided within the purview of GATT rather than in the uncertain environment of a UN conference. This classic bureaucratic anoeuvre achieved its purpose. Discussion of the linkages between trade and environment ceased and the GATT committee was not convened for 20 years—until trade and the environment emerged again in the early 1990s, during the NAFTA negotiations and in the final phase of the Uruguay Round, which coincided with the UN Conference on Environment and Development.

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IISD, 2002