Trade and Environment: What Can We Learn From Trade Policy Reviews?



Aik Hoe Lim, Sajal Mathur, Gowoon Suk | World Trade Organization

This paper is illustrative and seeks to provide the reader with a glimpse of the trade and environment information found in the TPRs. It points to the wealth of data that can be extracted from the WTO Environmental Database and the potential to do more analytical work to better understand trade and environment interactions. Such information and analysis could also potentially enrich discussions in the context of trade policy reviews.

The number of EDB entries drawn from the TPRs is growing over time. This trend can be expected to continue in the future and policy makers will increasingly need to coordinate and collaborate to ensure the mutual supportiveness of trade and environmental policies in the 21st Century. In the early TPRs, environment-related references pertained mainly to import/export restrictions, some pursuant to multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), and national environmental and resource conservation programmes. While such references continue to account for a large share of references found in TPRs, the range of measures and sectors involved have grown significantly. This is not surprising as governments face increasing pressure to respond to mounting concerns about the breadth, intensity, and urgency of environmental challenges.

Greater transparency of trade-related environmental measures is therefore required. However, since trade-related environmental measures do not fall neatly into one box and span across agreements, tracking such measures is an onerous task. By providing a single portal for all WTO trade-related environmental notifications and relevant references in TPRs, the EDB has improved access to such information. From the EDB, environment-related notifications can broadly be grouped in two categories. The first consists of those notifications that list environmental or related factors as the principal reason and objective for notifying. While the second includes notifications that are not primarily environment-related, but that include reference to environment-related aspects. For instance, notifications containing the text of regional trade agreements may include a clause or a specific environmental provision.

Less is known of environmental references in TPRs. There may be scope to have a dedicated sub-section on trade and environment policies’ in Members’ TPRs. Presently the TPRs across time or Members do not necessarily tackle the same trade and environmental issues. Having a dedicated section on trade and environment in the TPRs could allow for further cross-country and cross-temporal analysis in the future.

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WTO Trade and Environment