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International Trade and the Environment: The WTO and the New Beginning

Robert Page

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Environmental Product Requirements

In some countries, tough new packaging and labelling requirements have made it more difficult for imports to compete. While these have been justified in environmental terms, many importers suspect protectionist motives. Some members of the subcommittee have argued that this should be covered by amendments, if necessary, to the agreement on technical barriers to trade (TBT). Sweden argued that recycling and waste management were outside TBT and required new provisions. Canada took a very different approach. It questioned whether the Committee was mandated to examine the relative effectiveness of environmental product requirements in areas like labelling and packaging, and their legitimacy. Besides, life cycle analysis "would be too expensive and too time consuming to be practical." It listed a whole series of weaknesses of analysis, and called for more research on a case by case basis. In contrast, the US announced it would be submitting a systematic framework for analysis of ecolabelling. There was also debate on the methods and merits of recycling. Some countries complained that they would now have to import used materials in order to comply with market access regulations for imports into other jurisdictions. No resolution of the issues was recorded.[4]

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