WTO no excuse for environmental inaction
The state of our environment is a global concern. Despite an increasing awareness, setting internationally binding and ambitious commitments has proven to be a very difficult process. Can unilateral trade measures form an alternative and contribute to global environmental protection?
- Barbara Cooreman
- 14 June 2016
- Leiden Repository
Despite an increasing awareness, setting internationally binding and ambitious commitments has proven to be a very difficult process. In the absence of a stringent and coordinated international framework, states seek alternatives to promote environmental protection. Can states, in the absence of multilateral environmental action, unilaterally impose trade measures targeting foreign production processes in order to protect transboundary environmental resources? Does WTO law allow for these ‘extraterritorial’ trade measures? Or does the WTO act as a stumbling block for alternative solutions to global environmental challenges?
This thesis examines extraterritoriality under WTO law in the trade-environment debate. In order to shed light on the extraterritoriality question under WTO law, a comparative approach is adopted: extraterritoriality in other fields of law, such as competition law and international human rights law, is examined. The lessons learned through these excursions then serve as the building stones for a more rigorous interpretation of the current WTO legal framework. An extraterritoriality decision tree is proposed to systematically assess environmental trade measures with an extraterritorial effect. The tree is tested through several case studies: the landmark WTO case US-Shrimp is revisited, in addition to current EU environmental measures (fishing; emission trading; timber).
This research, useful both for decision-makers and adjudicators, demonstrates that the WTO legal regime does not constitute an impediment to global environmental action as current WTO law leaves more room for environmental trade measures with an extraterritorial reach than is often thought.