ARTHUR DUNKEL, director-general of the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT), has thrown down the gauntlet on
conservationists who claim that free trade damages the global
His 35-page report released on Feb. 11 is the first of its kind
to come from the world trade watchdog established in 1947.
In it Mr. Dunkel argues that "green" policies and freer trade in
industrial products can live together in harmony. But his arguments
have drawn rebukes from environmentalists determined to prove him
Some environmental groups concede, however, that the report
merits a reasoned response and have decided to study it with care
Disputes between conservationists and champions of industry are
nothing new. This time, however, the debate has been initiated by
the GATT chief.
Dunkel's report was characterized by one of his officials as an
attempt to "encourage international discussion of the links between
trade and industry and environmental pollution."
Its central - and controversial - thesis is that increased
international commerce should make it easier, not harder, to
protect the global environment.
"Increasing trade improves our ability to invest in and protect
the environment," the report says. "A country with a stagnant
economy will be under greater pressure to snit on improving the
The Dunkel report has been published amid continuing attempts to
break the deadlock in the stalled Uruguay Round of world trade
talks and in the run-up to the United Nations "earth summit" in
Brazil in June.
Dunkel said the report was to be discussed at the summit, and
that the document was designed to counter two arguments likely to
be used extensively by environmental spokesmen at Rio de Janeiro:
that increases in international trade have an adverse impact on the
environment; and that the application of trade sanctions against
countries with low environmental standards is justifiable.
The Dunkel report's contention that increased trade gives
countries more money to spend on cleaner production and consumption
challenges the passionately-held convictions of environmentalists.
Its publication came only a week after the leaking of a
memorandum by Lawrence Summers, vice president of the World Bank,
arguing the economic case for locating pollution-producing
industries in developing countries. The memo, which Mr. Summers
defended as an attempt to provoke thought, appeared to conflict
with World Bank policies on environmental protection and prompted
demands for his resignation.
The bank administers the $1.5 billion Global Environmental
Facility through which funds for environmental protection in many
countries are administered.
Colin Hines, a London-based Greenpeace International campaigner,
called the Summers thesis "outrageous." He dismissed Dunkel's
argument as "totally false. …