Sustainable Development Goals vs Non-Discrimination in WTO Law: Does the End Justify the Means?

Indian Journal of International Economic Law, Forthcoming

25 Pages Posted: 2 Mar 2021

See all articles by Charlotte Sieber-Gasser

Charlotte Sieber-Gasser

University of Zurich - Faculty of Law; University of Lucerne

Smriti Kalra

National Law School of India University

Aditi Vishwas Sheth

National Law School of India University

Date Written: January 21, 2021

Abstract

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their explicit reference to the WTO treaties offer a new incentive to rethink the regulatory structure of Special and Differential Treatment (SDT) and the scope of the General Exceptions in WTO law: Among others, the SDGs aim at overcoming the negative side-effects of the recent years of massive structural change in the global market. Negative side-effects of international trade – such as pollution of climate and environment, exhaustion of natural resources, dangerous working conditions along with a rise in inequality – are among others enabled by WTO law to the extent that WTO law explicitly rules environmental and human rights standards as being outside of its scope. In this article, we therefore analyse the role of WTO law in contributing to inequality between and within states – and its ability to embrace a (partial) cure. In particular, we address the extent to which the promotion of SDGs qualifies under the general exceptions in GATT and GATS, and whether SDGs are able to strengthen SDT by clarifying the scope of regulatory flexibility. We conclude that otherwise inconsistent policies strictly aiming at achieving SDGs will – in line with Brazil–Taxation – qualify under the general exceptions. Furthermore, while SDGs indeed inform the normative content of SDT, it is important to keep in mind that from a regulatory perspective, discrimination between “countries in which the same conditions prevail” is irreconcilable with the purpose and goal of the SDGs.

Keywords: Sustainable Development Goals, WTO, GATT, GATS, Special and Differential Treatment

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Sieber-Gasser, Charlotte and Kalra, Smriti and Vishwas Sheth, Aditi, Sustainable Development Goals vs Non-Discrimination in WTO Law: Does the End Justify the Means? (January 21, 2021). Indian Journal of International Economic Law, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3770565

Charlotte Sieber-Gasser (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Faculty of Law ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

University of Lucerne

Hofstrasse 9
P.O. Box 7464
Luzern 7, CH - 6000
Switzerland

Smriti Kalra

National Law School of India University ( email )

Nagarbhavi
Bangalore
India

Aditi Vishwas Sheth

National Law School of India University ( email )

Nagarbhavi
Bangalore
India

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