Under WTO rules, as confirmed by WTO jurisprudence since 1995, members can adopt trade-related measures, such as those embedded in MEAs, notably the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, in order to protect the environment and human health, subject to certain specified conditions.
Among the most recent WTO jurisprudence relevant to trade and environment, disputes include e.g.:
- United States – Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and Betting Services, 10 November 2004, later modified by the Appellate Body Report on 7 April 2005; Article 21.3 (c) of the Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU), Arbitration Report on 19 August 2005; Article 21.5 of the DSU, Panel Report on 30 March 2007; Recourse to Article 22.6 of the DSU, Arbitration Report on 21 December 2007; Authorization to retaliate granted on 28 January 2013.
- United States – Final Dumping Determination on Softwood Lumber from Canada, 13 April 2004, later modified by the Appellate Body Report on 11 August 2004; Article 21.3 (c) of the DSU Arbitration Report on 13 December 2004; Article 21.5 of the DSU, Panel Report on 03 April 2006; Article 21.5 of the DSU, Appellate Body Report on 15 August 2006; mutually agreed solution on 12 October 2006.
- United States – Countervailing Measures on certain EC Products, 31 July 2002, later modified by the Appellate Body Report in 2003; Article 21.5 of the DSU, Panel Report on 17 August 2005.
- European Communities – Trade Description of Sardines, 29 May 2002, later modified by the Appellate Body Report on 26 September 2002; mutually agreed solution on implementation notified on 25 July 2003.
- European Communities – Measures Affecting Asbestos and Asbestos-containing Products, 18 September 2000, later modified by Appellate Body Report in 2001.
- United States – Import Prohibition of Certain shrimp and Shrimp Products, 6 November 1998, later modified by the Appellate Body Report in 2001.
- United States – Standards for Reformulated and Conventional Gasoline, 29 January 1996, later modified by the Appellate Body Report on 20 May 1996.
Since 1995, when the WTO’s dispute settlement procedure took over from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), three proceedings involving an examination of environmental measures or human health-related measures under GATT Article XX on General Exceptions have been completed. This Article XX sets out a number of specific instances, in which WTO members may be exempted from complying with GATT rules. The two exceptions of particular relevance to the protection of the environment are paragraphs (b) and (g) of Article XX: in accordance with these provisions, WTO members may adopt policy measures that incompatible with GATT disciplines, but necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health (paragraph (b)), or relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources (paragraph (g)). The three most relevant cases are the following:
For more information, you may also please consult:
Introduction to dispute settlement in the WTO
GATT/WTO dispute settlement practice on Article XX, paragraphs (b), (d), and (g) (exceptions)