The Many Faces of the Trade-Environment Conflict: Some Lessons for the Constitutionalization Project

European Integration online Papers (EIoP), Vol. 6, No. 2002-011

23 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2002

See all articles by Oren Perez

Oren Perez

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law


The 'trade and environment' nexus emerged over the last decade as one of the main concerns of the anti-globalization movement. The dyad - 'trade-environment' - was invoked increasingly as if it designates a singular social dilemma, whose boundaries and contours are well defined. This article challenges this assumption. The trade and environment conflict, it is argued, should not be viewed as a singular problem, but rather as an amalgam of multiple dilemmas, constituted by a myriad of institutional and discursive networks. The article's main thesis, which follows from this pluralistic image, is that the trade-environment conflict cannot be resolved by a singular (meta) legal formula or economic model. Its resolution requires, rather, an assemblage of varied responses, which will be sensitive to its multi-dimensional character. This thesis leads to a more general critique of global Constitutionalism, which questions the attempts to resolve global dilemmas through unitary institutional structures. The article develops an alternative constitutional conception, which replaces the search for all-embracing universalistic structures, with an experimental (even opportunistic) outlook, directed by a pragmatic and contextual approach. The notion of 'polycentric constitutionalization' is used to describe this alternative conception. To illustrate its general thesis the article considers the ecological problematic of the IMF 'structural adjustment' programs. The goal of this examination is both to expose the contours of the trade-environment conflict as it arises within this particular domain, and to propose some ideas for resolving the problematic of the adjustment programs, which will be guided by the vision of 'polycentric constitutionalization'.

Keywords: European integration, economic integration, globalization, international trade, IMF, constitutional change, environmental policy, law, political science, economics

Suggested Citation

Perez, Oren, The Many Faces of the Trade-Environment Conflict: Some Lessons for the Constitutionalization Project. European Integration online Papers (EIoP), Vol. 6, No. 2002-011, Available at SSRN: or

Oren Perez (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Faculty of Law
Ramat Gan, 52900
+972-3-5317798 (Phone)
+972-3-5351856 (Fax)

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