Critics of the WTO’s Environmental Standards Need to Rethink the Organization’s Mandate – International Policy Digest

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has long been criticized for its trade-focused policies to the detriment of the environment. WTO members view an “equitable and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system” as the key factor toward better protecting environmental resources while upholding the organization’s trading system.

Since the end of World War II coincided with a drastic rise in global environmental degradation, international trade expansion raised several questions about whether the WTO’s trade policies support or hinder the environment. However, in the given context, the more important question is that if the WTO is a trade organization, then to what extent can it be an environmental organization?

Since its creation, the WTO’s mandate has made it competent to primarily deal with trade-related issues and ensure that global trade is being conducted according to international law. As a trade organization, the WTO fulfills its foundational objectives to which its member states have committed while simultaneously preserving its members’ sovereignty.

Despite its primary mandate, the WTO recognizes a notable exception to trade rules under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Article 20 for resource conversation and environmental protection. Article 20 of the GATT shows that the WTO allows member states to adopt trade-related measures aimed at achieving their objectives of national environmental regulation. The rules have the fundamental principle of non-discrimination, transparency, and predictability to