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International Environmental Law Project (IELP)

IELP’s work related to trade and the environment

February 17, 2010

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The nexus between trade and the environment has risen in prominence since 1991, when a panel of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) ruled that the United States violated GATT rules by restricting imports of tuna if a caught tuna by encircling and killing dolphins. Since then, countries of the world have institutionalized the GATT and several other trade-related agreements within the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In the decade after the Tuna/Dolphin decision, GATT and WTO panels have ruled against environmental and human health restrictions in the United States, the European Union, Japan, and Australia. For example, a WTO panel ruled that prohibitions against the importation of meat and meat products containing growth hormones violated the rules of a WTO agreement called the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards (the SPS Agreement). The SPS Agreement is particularly important because it creates rules for implementing national standards for the protection of human or animal health from risks arising from pesticides and other additives, contaminants, toxins, or disease-causing organisms in foods, beverages and feedstuffs. One of the key provisions of the SPS Agreement requires a country to base its regulations on international standards or base its different regulations on a risk assessment.

IELP has worked on several projects relating to the trade and environment debate. For example, IELP prepared a petition under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act to certify Japan as diminishing the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora for Japan’s so-called scientific whaling. Once a country is certified, the President of the United States may impose trade sanctions that country. The Pelly Amendment requires any trade sanctions imposed by the President to be consistent with the GATT. IELP analyzed the provisions of the Pelly Amendment in light of recent WTO decisions and concluded that certain sanctions would be consistent with the GATT.

In addition, IELP has petitioned the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, established under the environmental side agreement to the NAFTA, the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation, alleging that the United States is failing to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act against loggers. IELP has also prepared briefings for Oregon lawmakers on recent decisions of the WTO.

      Project Resources

Primer on the WTO and the Global Trading System
Shrimp/Turtle Briefing
Shrimp/Turtle II Briefing
ADF Group, Inc./Buy America Briefing
Sardines/Ecolabeling Briefing

      General Resources

Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
Friends of the Earth: Greening Trade webpage
Council on Environmental Cooperation (CEC)
Foreign Policy In Focus
Mercusul/Mercusur Secretariat
European Union Eco-label Homepage
US Trade Representative Homepage
Representative and Related Entities
Welcome to NAFTA Facts
WTO Homepage

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