Risk Assessment and the WTO
Edited by David Robertson and Aynsley Kellow
Chapter 9: Accounting for risk in multilateral negotiations
Aynsley Kellow Should we forbid international travel, given the certain knowledge that our quarantine procedures are quite unable to hinder the importation of exotic diseases? (Joshua Lederberg, 1975) In December 1998, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was leading a campaign by European wildlife groups urging shoppers not to buy wines from the Australian producers Rosemount and Tollana because they used new plastic stoppers in a bid to reduce the risk of cork taint – a move made in response to the demands of the British market. The motivation for this action was the possible impact of the plastic stopper on the demand for cork, which was expected to result in Spanish and Portuguese cork farmers planting fewer forests or not maintaining existing woodlands which provided habitat for more than 40 different species of birds, including the rare imperial eagle. The Society was lobbying supermarkets and wine retailers (the very people who had asked for plastic stoppers) to insist on labelling that would allow shoppers to identify the offending bottles and refuse to buy them. Simultaneously, the cork producers were mounting a public relations campaign in Australia to counter the move to plastic stoppers, extolling the virtues of cork and downplaying the risk of cork taint. Not all such campaigns find their way into either effective boycotts or policy action on the part of governments, but this example demonstrates the increasingly complex interactions between obscure environmental risk, single-issue lobby groups and trade worth millions of dollars. In a classic...
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