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Michaël Alder, Aik Hoe Lim and Ruosi Zhang

Considerable attention has been devoted to how trade in environmental goods can help in the efforts to mitigate climate change and the role that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) might play in this regard. There has, in contrast, been much less consideration of the impact of services trade and the adequacy of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) as a framework for supporting environmental sustainability. We argue that market opening for trade-in-services does not stand in the way of sound environmental policies. To the contrary, liberalizing trade in services can positively impact the environment, by providing greater access to environmental services, such as waste management services, to name just one. Moreover, liberalization of trade in environmental services may enable and encourage service suppliers and consumers alike to opt for eco-friendly, “green” (and “greener”) services. Hence, trade in services and environmental sustainability should be considered as complementing one another. With an appropriate legal and policy framework, such an approach can create a win-win situation; namely, higher potential for international trade in services on the one hand, and better global environmental policies, on the other hand.