Freer Trade, Protected Environment: Balancing Trade Liberalization and Environmental Interests
By C. Ford Runge and Others
Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994, 146 pp.
Greening the GATT: Trade, Environment, and the Future
By Daniel C. Esty
Institute for International Economics, 1994, 319 pp.
One of the hot issues in post-Uruguay Round international trade policy, already an early agenda item for the new World Trade Organization, will be the relationship of trading rules to national environmental policy. There are a number of key questions to be addressed: Under what circumstances will it be acceptable for a country to ban otherwise acceptable imports on the grounds that they were not produced in an environmentally acceptable way? When may countries use import sanctions more generally against countries that engage in environmentally unacceptable practices, despite trade commitments made during earlier multilateral negotiations? Who exactly will determine what is "environmentally unacceptable"? Is it necessary or desirable to harmonize environmental regulations among countries so as to discourage relocation of economic activity on environmental grounds? These and many more specific questions will be on the international agenda and hence on the domestic political agenda of many countries. Moreover, if mishandled they have the capacity to become the major source of friction between developed and developing countries.
These books both represent excellent introductions to the subject. Esty's is the meatier and more radical (with respect to deviation from past practice) of the two books, but both examine issues that will be raised and discussed. Both review precedents and problems from international case law involving the intersection of trade and environmental issues. Both are sensitive to the possible misuse of legitimate environmental concerns for purposes of old-fashioned protection against import competition. Both make constructive suggestions about how to approach the issues, sometimes simple when properly stated, sometimes excruciatingly complex. And, what will please some readers but horrify others, both recommend creating a new international organization to provide a forum for negotiating environmental standards and resolving international environ- mental disputes.