Tilman Santarius, Holger Dalkmann, Markus Steigenberger and Karin Vogelpohl
Balancing Trade and Environment.
An Ecological Reform of the WTO as a Challenge in Sustainable Global Governance.
Wuppertal Paper, February 2004.
From 10 to 14 September 2003, the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiated over a further liberalization of world trade. A lot was at stake there for the environment. It is true that in the current round of negotiations the Doha Declaration has agreed certain points relating to the environment. But this should not conceal the fact that the WTO is still a long way from taking due account of ecological aspects in its policies. The present paper begins by analyzing the discussion on environmental issues within the WTO, which for more than ten years has been conducted mainly in its Committee on Trade and Environment. It is shown that many environmental effects of trade liberalization have not been discussed at all, that conflicts of interest among WTO member-states prevent any deep discussion, and that an ecological reform of the WTO has up to now stood no chance. This analysis then forms the background for a twofold strategy. First, arguments are presented as to why the WTO, given its environmental policy deficits, should afford sufficient scope to institutions actively concerned with environmental policy. The conflictual relationship between Multilateral Environmental Agreements and the WTO is examined at this point. A distinction is drawn between minor and potentially critical conflicts, and it is shown how a limitation of the competence of the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, together with cooperative political-legal processes to resolve conflicts between affected institutions, might offer a solution and lead to greater institutional equity in the global political arena. Second, the paper discusses how ecological aspects might be integrated step by step into the WTO. After a detailed examination of the potential and limits of instruments like impact assessments, it makes a number of recommendations for their further development. Finally, it considers how impact assessments might be integrated into the WTO's institutional structures, so that ecological aspects can be systematically input into policy-making processes and better public participation in WTO policy be ensured. In this connection, the paper discusses both the integration of impact assessments into the WTO's Trade Policy Review Mechanism and the creation of a new Strategic Impact Assessment Body within the WTO.
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