The Role of the World Trade Organization in Global Governance

By Gary P. Sampson | Go to book overview

7
The relationship between trade
and environment regimes:
What needs to change?

Director General, WWF International
Claude Martin

Over the past 50 years, the volume of world trade has grown an average of 6 per cent every year. At present, it is 18 times the level it was in 1948, owing in large part to the elimination of trade barriers, such as import tariffs, quotas, and other trade restrictions. Although this trade expansion has helped bring about global economic prosperity, the benefits have not been evenly shared. Income disparities between the rich and the poor continue to widen, biodiversity has declined, pollution has increased, and the world's natural resources have been seriously depleted. It has been estimated that, since 1970, 30 per cent of the earth's natural wealth has been destroyed as the result of alarming trends such as increasing greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, soil erosion, and overfishing.

In short, governments have done a good job in creating a global marketplace, but not one that is yet producing sustainable outcomes for the world's environment or for many of its poorest communities. As international trade and investment become increasingly important factors shaping our lives, the way in which we trade and invest across borders has profound implications for the health of our planet.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other environmental campaigners cannot but be concerned about the impacts of

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