The World Trade Organization and the Environment

By P. K. Rao | Go to book overview
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Concluding observations

Much of traditional economic theory presumes the infinite availability of ecological and environmental assets. This implicit assumption led to the focus on principles of comparative advantage as the single most important determinant of international trade. While this premise still has some merit, the empirical evidence shows that the role of a number of other important elements is rather dominant. These elements include national or geographic borders, transaction costs, institutional configurations like the RTAs, political economy of alternate forms of trade patterns, and the role of multilateral institutions (or endogenous institutional dynamics). Freer trade for its own sake is not a desirable end product; it should be ingrated with broader issues of development, and sustainability.

The role of GATT and its impact during its half-a-century of provisional existence indicates its positive impact in reducing trade distortions and tariff barriers. The emergence of the new WTO with a full pledged charter structure and member participation portends much greater influence and impact on the global trade, economy and the environment. These are the issues to be deliberated in the course of the rest of the text. The foundations of an integrated trade-environment-development emerge from those of sustainable development processes and these constitute the focus of Chapter 2 to follow.

Appendix I
1944 Bretton Woods Conference on global economic arrangements
1946 The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development ( IBRD)
and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) start activities
1947 Drawing up of the institution GATT
1947 First Round of multilateral tariff reductions negotiated in Geneva
1948 Adoption of the ITO charter by the International Conference on
Trade and Employment in Havana
1949 Second Round of multilateral tariff negotiations in Annecy
1951 Third Round of multilateral tariff negotiations in Torquay
1956 Fourth Round of multilateral trade negotiations in Geneva
1957 Treaty of Rome establishes European Common Market


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