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International Environmental Law Project (IELP)

Trade and The Environment

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In 1991, the Tuna/Dolphin dispute brought international trade law to the attention of environmental advocates when a trade panel concluded that U.S. import restrictions of tuna caught by encircling dolphins violated the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). In 1998, protesters lined the streets in sea turtle costumes to protest a similar decision of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the Shrimp/Turtle dispute. Other trade disputes, including the Beef Hormones case, illustrate how global trade rules can limit options for environmental protection. 

IELP has worked on several projects in this area. Most recently, IELP has prepared a guide to understanding the links between state and local legislation and international trade law. The guide is an essential read for policy-makers, advocates, and legislators and should help with the drafting of effective legislation. IELP has also prepared a petition to certify that Japan’s so-called scientific whaling diminishes the effectiveness of both the International Whaling Commission and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Once a country is certified, the President of the United States may restrict trade in products from that country. Additionally, IELP petitioned the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, established under the environmental side agreement to the NAFTA, alleging that the United States is failing to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act against loggers. IELP also issues briefings on important trade-environment disputes. For more information on IELP’s trade and environment work, please see our project stories below.

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International Environmental Law Project (IELP)

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