Selected Legal Issues
Chapter 7: Renewable energy in the World Trade Organization
The argument of Part III of this book is that the use of renewable energy will help towards energy security regionally and climate change mitigation globally. This chapter examines selected legal aspects of the multilateral trade system regarding renewable energy promotion. It argues that the WTO rules are capable of promoting environmental protection objectives. The multilateral trade system aims at the eventual total liberalization of cross-border trade through the removal of as many trade barriers – such as tariffs, quantitative restrictions, and trade-distortive practices – as may be politically acceptable to the economic areas involved. For their part, the governing structures of the economic areas concerned – for the most part, the governments of sovereign states – are faced with the task of addressing a much broader set of interests than those pertaining to trade. However, the accession of sovereign actors and regional economic unions (such as the EU) to international treaty-based organizations (such as the WTO), and their acceptance of the relevant international obligations often commensurately condition their policymaking. In that respect, it is not uncommon for, say, certain measures that WTO members take in order to address some subjective policy objective that is, on the face of it, extraneous to cross-border trade, to infringe upon their international obligations – for instance, such measures may infringe upon obligations owed by WTO members under their WTO membership in a manner that is not in line with WTO rules.
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