Trade and Environment Policies

If you wish to get more information about World Trade Organization, just click WTO. Its URL is: As WTO updates its site periodically, some of these documents are not readily accessible. To assist students, however, some items are copied below. These documents originated in the WTO websites, and Kwan Choi is NOT the author.

The preamble to the World Trade Organization Agreement recognizes the need to protect the environment and to promote sustainable development. Environmental concerns are also recognized in several of the agreements which the WTO oversees - including those on technical barriers to trade, agriculture, subsidies, intellectual property rights and services.

Recognition by governments of the importance of the relationship between the functioning of the multilateral trading system and better environmental protection and the promotion of sustainable development has progressed quickly over recent years. From the end of 1991, a GATT Group on Environmental Measures and International Trade made substantial progress in examining the trade-environment relationship in the context of the GATT. In 1992 the Group as well as the Committee on Trade and Development and the GATT Council were given a remit to follow-up on trade-oriented decisions of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Sustainable Development (the Earth Summit) held in Rio de Janiero in June 1992.

The Uruguay Round Ministerial Decision on Trade and Environment ensures that linkages between trade policies, environmental policies and sustainable development will be taken up as a priority in the World Trade Organization. The WTO General Council formally established, in early 1995, a Committee on Trade and Environment.

The Committee's broad-based remit covers all areas of the multilateral trading system - goods, services and intellectual property. Its objectives are: to identify the relationship between trade measures and environmental measures in order to promote sustainable development, and to make appropriate recommendations on whether modifications of the provisions of the multilateral trading system are required. Two important assumptions guide the work of the Committee: first, that WTO competence for policy coordination in this area is limited to trade; second, that if problems of policy coordination are identified through the Committee's work, they are to be resolved in a way that upholds and safeguards the principles of the multilateral trading system. The Committee is to present a report on its work to the first meeting of the WTO Ministerial Conference expected at the end of 1996.