Handbook on Trade and the Environment
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Handbook on Trade and the Environment

Edited by Kevin P. Gallagher

In this comprehensive reference work, Kevin Gallagher has compiled a fresh and broad-ranging collection of expert voices commenting on the interdisciplinary field of trade and the environment. For over two decades policymakers and scholars have been struggling to understand the relationship between international trade in a globalizing world and its effects on the natural environment. The authors in this Handbook provide the tools to do just that.
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Chapter 19: An Introduction to the Trade and Environment Debate

Steve Charnovitz


Steve Charnovitz* Introduction This chapter offers an introduction to the trade and environment debate. Readers of this Handbook will encounter many different approaches to these complex issues. What I seek to do here is to provide historical, political and legal context for analysts who try to understand and, ultimately, to solve trade and environment problems. Following this introduction, the chapter has two sections. The first puts the contemporary debate in historical context and explains how the trading system got to the point where it is today. The second section provides a legal guide to the provisions of World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements that relate directly to the environment. History and context International policies on trade and on environment have always intersected. The earliest multilateral environmental agreement (MEA), the Convention for the Protection of Birds Useful to Agriculture, signed in 1902, utilized an import ban as an environmental instrument.1 The earliest multilateral trade agreement to pursue trade liberalization, the Convention for the Abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions and Restrictions, signed in 1927, contained an exception for trade restrictions imposed for the protection of public health and the protection of animals and plants against diseases and against ‘extinction’.2 As environmental regimes evolved over the twentieth century, trade instruments continued to be used by governments seeking workable environmental protection. When the postwar multilateral trading system was designed in 1947–48, governments recognized the need for some policy space to accommodate the use of trade measures as instruments to safeguard the...

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