Conflict, Chaos and Confusion
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Conflict, Chaos and Confusion

The Crisis in the International Trading System

William A. Kerr

After 15 years the WTO is not functioning as envisioned and is faced with many new trade challenges − climate change, terrorism, pandemics, genetically modified organisms, food safety − which it is ill-equipped to handle. Conflict, Chaos and Confusion sheds light on this deep and acute crisis, focusing on contentious and complex new trade issues and how they will affect international trade in the future.
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Chapter 18: Who Should Make the Rules of Trade? The Complex Issue of Multilateral Environmental Agreements

William A. Kerr


… trade rules must: ensure deference to multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) when there are conflicts between trade rules and trade-related provisions of MEAs. Centre for International Environmental Law, Consumers Choice Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice Legal Defence Fund, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defence, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund1 With a view to enhancing the mutual supportiveness of trade and environment, we agree to negotiations, without prejudging the outcome, on: (i) the relationship between existing WTO rules and specific trade obligations set out in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). The Doha Ministerial Declaration2 One is sometimes led to wonder whether there is anyone minding the store when it comes to international negotiations.3 While it is understandable that in large government bureaucracies the left hand may not know what the right hand is doing, it is hard to imagine that this can be the case over a large number of countries that are collectively engaged in long-term, complex negotiations. In this light, it seems surprising that a large number of governments of countries that are members of the WTO have also signed a variety of Multilateral Environmental Agreement (MEAs) that have trade provisions that contradict in fundamental ways their WTO commitments. For example, did it not occur to at least one of the 140-odd countries that negotiated The Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity – hereafter the Biosafety Protocol (BSP) – to raise the point that the processbased labelling regime for...

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