A BRIEF OVERVIEW ON WTO AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

 Introduction

In the present world scenario, both the International market and International trade have a great influence over human civilization because it makes human beings, both economically and socially, interdependent.

An Italian automobile company like Ferrari is using the technology provided by International software giant of Indian origin like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the robotic machines which do the actual work may be Japanese technology made in China. This has lead to tremendous growth in International trading. This system of trading also brought with it a lot of environmental problems.

The realization of these problems has called the world countries for a joint action to combat these environmental problems through joint resolutions. One of the major such problems identified is the Ozone Layer Depletion. Without an agreement to this effect how effective will be the protection at the international level is a significant question.

Another issue is relating to International trafficking in endangered species. In global economic governance, the connection between trade and environment stays a challenge. WTO has dedicated its notice and incorporated it in its agenda at the Doha round of negotiations. They over-viewed the relevant interconnection between environment and trade and the main institutional changes at WTO.

The jurisprudence of trade and environment has experienced significant advances. This work concentrates on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) and its coexistence with General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), Article XX, and also certain decisions made by the Appellate Body of the WTO.

Historical perspectives

In the reform of interaction between trade and environment, the past decade was a vital period. The talks or discussion regarding these matters revived from almost a century ago. One of the first discussions about this topic occurred in the early 1900s. This was a period of the preparation of the Convention for the Abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions. It was the first multilateral trade law instrument. It provided for certain exceptions which included provisions for protecting public health, protection of animals, plants against diseases and also measures for prevention from it being extinct.

One of the first discussions about this topic occurred in the early 1900s which was a period of preparing the Convention for the Abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions, the first multilateral trade law instrument. It provided for certain exceptions which included provisions for protecting public health, protection of animals, plants against diseases and also measures for prevention from it being extinct.

The talks on this issue got rejuvenated in the Charter’s drafting of the International Trade Organization (ITO) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

The provisions dealing with trade and commerce in the ITO Charter have a general exception for Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs). MEA are agreements between states and can two forms: 1. ‘Soft law’:

These are agreements of non-legal character. The States consider in their relation with any matter which may affect the environment; or

2. ‘Hard law’ :

This is of a binding legal character. The states ought to follow them while dealing with any environmental matters.

 These exceptions are besides those provided via Article XX of GATT.

The MEA agreement includes the measures taken through various inter-governmental agreements which relates to various environmental aspects, some being the conservation of fisheries resources, wild animals, an environment suitable for migratory birds. However, The discussion between trade and environment rejuvenated by the end of the 1960s and became silent again.

By the late 1980s, the GATT had developed an arrogant personality. Also, it was not showing any concern about the challenges of protecting the environment. ‘In principle, it is not possible under GATT’s rules to make access to one’s own market dependant on the domestic environmental policies or practices of the exporting country, this was proclaimed in the GATT Secretariat Report of 1992 on ‘Trade and Environment’.

Thus, a new transformation in the discussion or rather a debate started in the 1996-98 period. Moreover, The interest given to the environment by trade negotiators and Appellate Body jurisprudence fostered and boosted this era.

The Appellate Body didn’t give importance to the historical facts, but it preferred to create and hold decisions supporting environmental protection. Hence, this was to be taken as a significant approach to the interpretation.