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The World Trade Organization Under Challenge: Democracy and the Law and Politics of the WTO's Treatment of Trade and Environment Matters

94 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2005 Last revised: 5 Jul 2014

Gregory Shaffer

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: February 22, 2010

Abstract

This article examines how the World Trade Organization addressed trade and environment issues through a political process, as opposed to the judicial one, which has been the focus of most WTO legal scholarship. It examines the operation of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment, treating the Committee as a site to assess central concerns of governance - that is, who governs - in a globalizing economy. Northern environmental interest groups and many northern academics criticize the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment for failing to propose substantive changes to WTO law in order to grant more deference to national environmental policies having extraterritorial effects. The article, through its focus on the positions and roles of state and non-state actors, provides an empirical grounding to better assess the democratic accountability of the WTO's handling of trade-environment matters. It examines the representativeness of national trade agencies before the Committee on Trade and Environment, the impact of a sophisticated WTO international secretariat in framing debates, shaping knowledge and the appreciation of alternatives, and the role of powerful commercial interests and transnational environmental advocacy groups pressing for their conflicting goals. The basic question addressed is who is represented and how are they represented in determining law's contours through the political process at the WTO. Building from this assessment, the article concludes by examining the prospects and limits of a World Environment Organization.

Keywords: WTO, democracy, trade and environment, NGOs, trade governance, power, stakeholders, transparency, world environment organization

Suggested Citation

Shaffer, Gregory, The World Trade Organization Under Challenge: Democracy and the Law and Politics of the WTO's Treatment of Trade and Environment Matters (February 22, 2010). Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 25, pp. 1-93, Winter 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=828644

Gregory C. Shaffer (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92612
United States

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