“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____________________