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

Robert Page

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The World Trade Organization

Perhaps the single most important product of the Uruguay Round was the establishment of the World Trade Organization to fill the void left by the demise of the ITO in 1950. The Tokyo Round added to the GATT a collection of standalone codes to which varying numbers of states were party. The Uruguay Round established the WTO as a comprehensive intergovernmental trade organization to administer and enforce all previous and new agreements. There were important new structures to deal with essential elements of the global trade regime, including a trade dispute resolution mechanism. Signatory parties must now sign on to the whole package of agreements, and can no longer pick and choose among its many codes.

In the preamble of the Agreement, there is recognition of the essential link between trade, economic, and sustainable development objectives. While there are environmental aspects of some of the areas addressed, like agriculture, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, standards and technical barriers, and intellectual property rights, there is no separate effort to deal with environment and trade issues as a whole. However, a trade and environment committee of the WTO was established to carry forward the deliberations in this area.

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