NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Green Restrictions on Trade Defeated at WTO

December 19, 1997

When the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) issued its final report last month, it left the door open for the organization to overrule so-called multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) -- nearly 200 of which threaten more open trade between nations. Environmental groups -- which had hoped to use the WTO to enforce green laws that affect trade -- are deploring the action.

  • Observers say that poorer countries and American businesses are allied in efforts to keep the environmental pacts from scuttling efforts to dismantle trade barriers.
  • On the other side of the issue are the Clinton administration, European nations and environmental activists.
  • The U.S. issued a statement expressing "disappointment that the CTE has not significantly advanced the understanding of environmental concerns."
  • A U.S. Chamber of Commerce analyst said the CTE report is a "standoff," which the business community prefers since it agrees the multilateral environmental regulations hurt economic growth and trade.

Analysts say that U.S. businesses fear some countries will hide behind environmental laws to protect their own industries from competition. Just one example: Germany declared certain goods environmentally safe because they were made with recycled parts from Germany.

Source: Adrienne Fox, "The Next Big Battle Over Trade," Investor's Business Daily, December 19, 1996.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues