Document Type

News Article


GATTing the Greens: Not Just Greening the GATT, Foreign Affairs, (November/December 1993)


Until recently, trade policymakers and environmental officials worked on separate tracks, rarely perceiving their paths as intersecting. Now that environmental protection has become a central issue on the public agenda, trade and environmental policies seem deeply intertwined and in some cases badly tangled. Environmentalists are calling the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) outdated or worse and are demanding a "greening" of the gatt to reflect environmental concerns. Trade experts have responded with a sharp defense of the international trade regime and have expressed fear that fur ther progress toward free trade will be undermined by protectionism in the guise of environmentalism.

The battle lines between trade and environmental policymakers need not become entrenched. Both camps defend principles that foster long-term security and prosperity, deter irresponsible shift ing of costs to other nations or generations and face a constant threat of erosion from special interests. Much of the discussion to date has focused on possible legal refinements to the GATT to build environmental sensitivity into the international trading system. But creating a new parallel international regime designed to defend the environment as a necessary element of a prosperous global economy and to coordinate policies with the gatt would offer the prospect of a broader peace between the trade and environmental communities. Like GATT, it would provide a bulwark against domestic political pressures that under mine long-term thinking and serve as an honest broker for the economic future, allocating costs, benefits and responsibilities in transnational disputes. In sum, instead of just "greening" the GATT, we should "GATT" the greens.

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