Global Environmental Politics, Volume 6, Number 1, February 2006, pp. 102-124 (Article) Published by The MIT Press
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Rachel McCormick A Qualitative Analysis of the WTO’s Role on Trade and Environment Issues
A Qualitative Analysis of the WTO’s Role on Trade and Environment Issues •
This article discusses how the WTO addresses environmental issues, assesses the current and potential role of the WTO in trade-environment controversies, and provides insight into how strategies used by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and industry could complement and facilitate work within the WTO. It differs from other writing on this topic, in that I use existing literature to provide a context for the results of interviews with 71 individuals with varying backgrounds and experience, all of whom are actively engaged on the topic of trade and environment. This approach allows for evaluation of the current and potential role of the WTO based on a qualitative analytical methodology and from an interdisciplinary perspective. I found that experts’ responses regarding the role of the WTO fell into the themes of scope, successes, challenges, opportunities, and misperceptions. These responses highlighted a continuum of opinions in some instances, and a common voice in others. This allowed for demonstration of fundamental differences of opinion on speciªc topics. Responses pertaining to scope demonstrated differences of opinion regarding what issues experts felt the WTO should address. Those on successes provided insight into what the WTO has been able to achieve and what factors have allowed this, while those on challenges highlighted key barriers that limit the role of the WTO. With respect to opportunities, the experts identiªed areas where the WTO has the mandate and enough momentum to make progress that would allow for further integration of environmental considerations into international trade. Respondents also identiªed misperceptions that could foster increased expectations of what the WTO can achieve and create fodder for criticism of the WTO. In light of these responses, I asked respondents how nonstate actors such as NGOs and industry might play a complementary role to the WTO. The experts recognized a range of NGO strategies, and that each plays a different role in inºuencing the development of trade policy. Generally, their responses indicated that, as a whole, these strategies facilitate the work of the WTO, although there were differences of opinion as to whether strategies such as protests were acceptable. Some experts recognized that initiatives within industry could foster integration of environmental considerations into international trade activities Global Environmental Politics 6:1, February 2006 © 2006 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and even facilitate the work of the WTO by, for example, responding to issues where the WTO is experiencing challenges. In the subsequent sections, I detail the methodology used to conduct and analyze the interviews, and then present the ªndings pertaining to the WTO and the relationship of the WTO with NGOs and industry. Based on these results, I conclude that the role the WTO plays in addressing trade and environment issues will be tested by the outcomes from the Doha round of negotiations, and in the willingness of WTO members to examine past work and identify a way forward. A positive role for the WTO’s Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE) would be to contribute to integration of environmental considerations throughout WTO committees and working groups. However, for this to occur, members must determine how the current barriers to progress can...