Integration between World Trade Organisation (WTO) law and International Environmental Agreements example

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Integration between World Trade Organisation (WTO) law and International Environmental Agreements


Both international environmental law and the WTO regime are complex systems which address different subject. International environmental law is concerned with protection of environment. The WTO is concerned with international trade. In some areas, both regimes may clash: environmental rules may have implications for trade rules and vice-versa. The current paper examines whether there is a sufficient integration between the WTO regime and international environmental treaties. The paper argues that when the two regimes agree on principles, the integration is sufficient. The author further finds that there is an agreement on principles and thus concludes that there is a sufficient integration.

International Environmental Law

Modern international environmental law has started developing since the 1960s. International environmental law is part of international law. It is not a separate discipline. Rather the term ‘international environmental law’ brings more specificity and shows that this part deals with a particular aspect, the environment. International environmental law emerged as a response to international concerns about the environment. Such concerns were prompted by various serious incidents and accidents showing that the plight of environment seriously affects the well-being. The consequences of such incidents and accidents often had trans-boundary implications. The Trail Smelter case is illustrative. The case was a trans-boundary pollution dispute between the United States and Canada. A Canadian company operated the smelter in the British Columbian city of Trail. The smoke issued by the smelter damaged forests and crops in the surrounding areas and across the border in the United States. The United States and Canada then agreed to arbitrate the case. The decision of the Arbitration Tribunal in that case is an important development in international environmental law, since it outlines some early approaches of how international law was to deal with cross-border environmental damage. For instance, one of the principles set forth by the Tribunal is that the investigation costs are not included in the concept of damage. The Tribunal also pointed out that the case must be resolved in accordance with international law and that international law should be given priority over domestic law.

It would be an ungrateful task to define the scope of international environmental law precisely. However, it is acknowledged that international environmental law deals with management, conservation, the concepts of prevention and sustainable development, and the concept of protection of future generations. In Iron Rhine, the international tribunal outlined the concept of environment: it includes land, water, air, natural sites and ecosystems, flora and fauna, climate, human health and safety. Therefore, one may suggest that environmental law is the body of rules and principles that deal with management, conservation of, prevention of damage to, sustainable development of land, water, air, natural ecosystems, flora and fauna and other sources that constitute the environment.

International environmental law rests upon certain principles. Some of these principles can be ascertained from the 1992 Rio Declaration. Among such principles there are: the sovereign right of a state to exploit its own natural resources, the responsibility of …

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