The Linkage of Trade and Environment
Trade and Environment are linked historically. In the present part, the history of the linkage will be analyzed under three different phases starting from the beginning of the 1920s to till today.
The First Phase
From the early beginning of the Trade history, the trading system sought to avoid interfering with national health and environmental policy measures. The first multilateral treaty on trade, the Customs Simplification Convention of 1923, incorporated a provision stating that the disciplines of the treaty did not "prejudice the measures which contracting parties may take to ensure the health of human beings, animals or plants".
The next major multilateral trade treaty in this phase was the Trade Prohibitions Convention of 1927 which sought to discipline import and export prohibitions. The Convention included an exception for "prohibitions or restrictions imposed for the protection of human health and for the protection of animals and plants against disease, insects and harmful parasites". It is clear that, even by 1927, the international community was aware of the implications of trade rules for biodiversity and bio safety.
The Second Phase:
After World War II, when leading governments negotiated both the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the Charter of the International Trade Organization, there were a sufficient number of multilateral environmental agreements in place which relate solely to the conservation of fishery resources, migratory birds or wild animals The immediate post-war period had been an active time for international environmental policymaking, and saw the negotiation of the Whaling Convention of 1946, the Fishing Nets Convention of 1946, the Pan American Nature Protection Convention of 1948, and the organic act of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources of 1948. Thus, the architects of the multilateral trading system were aware of certain environmental challenges and of the need to keep emerging trade policies compatible.
As of the failure of the Havana Charter, the GATT remained only one legal instrument to deal with the environment. It was the early 1970s when the discussions started seriously to incorporate environmental measures in WTO. As an intellectual contribution to the 1972 U.N. Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, the GATT Secretariat prepared a report on "Industrial Pollution Control and International Trade". In the same period, officials in the GATF Secretariat gave technical advice to the drafters of the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora on how to make its trade obligations GATF-consistent. In 1971, then GAT established a standby Group on Environmental Measures and International Trade. In this phase the panel has shown restrictive approach to extend the exceptions of article XX of the GATT 1947 to protect environment. Steven Carnovitz in the early 1990s blamed GATT council 1990 not to implement proper mechanism to reconcile trade and environment and he mentioned that the drafter of the GATT were well aware of the importance of the environmental protection through GATT regime. It is also evident from the GATT Secretariat Report of 1992 on “Trade and Environment” where it has been procimed that, it is not possible to access to one’s own market related with domestic environmental policies. So it is assumed that GATT was unsympathetic to the environmental challenges. This approach continued almost till the creation of WTO.
Though this phase stared from 1995, it would trace back to the Uruguay Round negations where non trade issues have been broadly discussed and counties in some points came to mutual understanding. Several events in the early 1990s concern that, the GATT might be acting in an environmental friendly way. The GATT Group met intermittently over the next couple of years until it was replaced in 1995 by the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment. A new era in trade environment interface began in 1996-1998. It would be elucidated in greater details in the next section of the paper.