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‘Greening’ the WTO Ban on China’s Export Duties

On 19 February 2020, Richard Jiang defended his thesis '‘Greening’ the WTO Ban on China’s Export Duties'. The doctoral research was supervised by Prof. M.C.E.J. Bronckers.

Richard Jiang
19 February 2020
Leiden Repository

According to the controversial China—Raw Materials and China—Rare Earths decisions, China is prohibited from using export duties to address any environmental problems, including those associated with climate change. This is unfortunate because a number of climate studies have suggested that export duties can be useful to tackle carbon leakage in China, being the largest emitter and exporter of carbon dioxide emissions.

This thesis argues that there is a need to consider ‘greening’ the absolute ban on China’s export duties. It accordingly proposes that, export duties - solely restricting exports - should be prohibited outright, while ‘export duties plus’ – restricting both exports and domestic consumption - should be allowed in pursuit of environmental advantages. There are three most feasible ways to achieve this balanced outcome: (i) a waiver as a stopgap measure, (ii) a Ministerial Decision or Declaration as a more flexible alternative, and (iii) a legal interpretation for the Appellate Body to distinguish between export duties and ‘export duties plus’ as a judicial correction. With regard to the proposed judicial correction, even if the Appellate Body is no longer operational, it remains relevant for the purpose of injecting valuable flexibility into the WTO’s precedent system.

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