Jurisdictional Concerns in the Settlement of Environmental Disputes under the WTO Regime

Divya Sharma
Assistant Professor
Andaman Law College, Port Blair
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India

Volume I, Issue V, 2018

The WTO has been playing a major role in international environmental law through its dispute resolution system, since the days of the GATT, 1994. At the Uruguay Round 1994, trade and environment were highly sensitive topics for the international trade regime. Thus, the WTO dispute settlement mechanism has subsequently become the most important international forum for settling disputes relating to trade and environment. Subsequently, the trade and environment controversy has generated several challenges to the competency of the WTO dispute settlement system, and continues to do so. As a result, there is a need to examine the current status of the WTO dispute settlement system in relation to whether it has jurisdiction to try trade-related environmental disputes or not. The following research paper delves into this issue and attempts to explore with regard to the matters concerning the ongoing disputes of trade and environment. It further touches upon the first Tuna-Dolphin case followed by the Shrimp-Turtle case that has drawn the attention of environmental activists to the working of the WTO dispute system from the environmental perspective that revealed a substantive bias and institutional discrepancy in favor of free trade in order to determine its suitability for dealing with environmental concerns and how far the WTO dispute settlement body is justifiable in interpreting the term “exhaustible natural resources” under Article XX (g) were challenged. This research paper further highlights the ongoing argument that while the WTO dispute settlement body has compulsory and exclusive jurisdiction in the field of WTO law, still its competence to apply other rules of international law is questioned. This also addresses the loopholes of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism for being inappropriately structured to address environmental disputes. This paper further emphasizes on the growing concerns as to the combination of a strong judicial system and reliance on panel and Appellate body decision which draws the attention of the environmentalists to think upon the justifiability of the WTO dispute settlement system and the safeguards that exist in the WTO along with the decisions that have already been made under the DSU so one-sided in their conclusions. The answers to these questions are very complex, thus require an examination of the general means with which the WTO interacts the environment. Hence, the real concern of the research paper is focused on the interaction between trade and environment and its current status, especially in relation to the operations of the dispute settlement system of the WTO.


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