The Political Economy of International Trade Law: Essays in Honor of Robert E. Hudec

By Daniel L. M. Kennedy; James D. Southwick | Go to book overview

12
“If only we were elephants” : The political
economy of the WTO's treatment of trade
and environment matters*
GREGORY C. SHAFFER

Mainstream US environmental groups were a core part of the protests at the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial meeting in Seattle, having taken the lead throughout the 1990s in challenging the legitimacy of WTO decision-making. Their central claim is that WTO decisions on trade and environment issues are anti-democratic and thus lack legitimacy.1 This study takes their charges seriously, assessing the representativeness of those partaking in WTO negotiations to define a legal framework for addressing the interaction of trade and environmental policies. The basic question is who is represented and how are they represented in determining law's contours through the political process at the international level.

This study examines how the World Trade Organization has addressed trade and environment issues through the creation of a Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE), treating the CTE as a site to assess central concerns of governance– that is, who governs–in a globalizing economy. Northern environmental interest groups and many Northern academics criticize the Committee on Trade and Environment for failing to propose substantive changes to WTO law in order to grant more deference to national environmental policies.2 This essay, through its focus on the positions and roles of state and non-state actors, provides a better

____________________
*
Some points in this chapter are elaborated in the article The World Trade Organization under Challenge: Democracy and the Law and Politics of the WTO's Treatment of Trade and Environment Matters, 15 Harvard Envtl. L. Rev. (Winter 2001). The primary support for this project came from grants from the National Science Foundation Law and Social Science Program and the Smongeski Fund of the University of Wisconsin Foundation.
1
See e.g. Lori Wallach &Michelle Sforza, Whose Trade Organization?Corporate Globalization and the Erosion of Democracy (Washington, DC: Public Citizen 1999) (the Preface by Ralph Nader refers to “an autocratic system of international governance that favors corporate interests”); Henry Holmes, The World Trade Take-Over, Earth Island J. 38 (Winter 1999– 2000) (referring to “the WTO's masterplan, ” including its “seeking to expand its ability to override environmental laws”); full-page advertisement in the New York Times taken out by a consortium of non-governmental organizations, including Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the USA, and Greenpeace USA, entitled Invisible Government, A14 (Nov. 29, 1999) (stating “The World Trade Organization (WTO) is emerging as the world's first global government …and its mandate is this: To undermine the constitutional rights of sovereign nations”).
2
See, e.g., Steve Charnovitz, A Critical Guide to the WTO's Report on Trade and Environment, 14 Arizona J. Int'l & Comp. L. 341, 342 (1997) (stating “hopes were dashed. When the CTE issued its report in November 1996, it became clear that two years of inter-governmental deliberations had yielded little output. ”); Introduction, in WWF–World Wide Fund For Nature, The WTO Committee on Trade and Environment–Is it Serious? (maintaining that the Committee is not serious about “making appropriate recommendations on whether any modifications of WTO rules are required” to accommodate environment policies), available at www.panda.org/ resources/publications/sustainability/wto/intro.htm (visited May 1, 2001); International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), The World Trade Organization and Sustainable Development: An Independent Assessment (maintaining that the Committee has failed to fulfill its primary task of recommending necessary changes to WTO provisions), available at http:// iisd.ca/trade/wto/wtoreport.htm (visited Oct. 31, 1999).

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