Will the WTO Turn Green? The Implications of Extending Observer Status to Multilateral Environmental Agreements


This article addresses whether the WTO should extend permanent observer status to multilateral environmental agreements and analyzes the impact of injecting environmental issues into the multilateral trading system. The paper begins with a chronological analysis of the transition from the GATT governance of international trade to the formation of the WTO and will also examine influences upon the formation and the agenda of the Committee on Trade and the Environment. The discussion continues with a look at the Committee on Trade and the Environment’s first year of progress and discussion of the critical report entitled Special Studies 4: Trade and the Environment. Following an evaluation of the impact of the first four WTO Ministerial Conferences is a discussion of the mechanics of the GATT’s anti-discrimination provisions and environmental exceptions. Next, the discussion is supplemented by an analysis of international case law interpreting the environmental exceptions contained in GATT. The paper then proceeds to investigate the structure and function of the different types of trade provisions in several multilateral environmental agreements and their impact on the multilateral trading system. Furthermore, the article conducts a chronological analysis of the struggle endured by multilateral environmental agreements to acquire observer status in the WTO and the relevant implications of their participation in WTO proceedings. Finally, the author explores proposed solutions and attempts to achieve harmony between trade and the environment.


Antitrust and Trade Regulation | Environmental Law | International Law | International Trade Law

Date of this Version

February 2004