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The World Trade Organization. Free Trade and Its Environmental Impacts

  • Fariborz Zelli
Publishing year: 2006
Language: English
Publication/Series: Handbook Of Globalization and The Environment
Document type: Book chapter
Publisher: Taylor & Francis

Abstract english

I will start out with an overview of common assumptions on the impact of free trade on the environment – assumptions which, very much like the first part of Lamy’s statement, are all-encompassing and deterministic. From there, I will narrow down the scope of examination to specific and immediate hardware-to-hardware impacts: akin to the second part of the above statement, the emphasis shall be put on the WTO’s efforts to actively ensure coherence between international trade law and environment regulations. By the same token, I will also take into account the role of countries in these coordinative efforts, which is a third factor named by Lamy. As will be shown, the ongoing deadlock among WTO members on ecological questions has so far prevented a more comprehensive approach, thereby leaving the momentum to the organization’s dispute settlement system. There are currently several ambiguous tendencies in the relationship between WTO law and both domestic and international environmental regulations. With the outcome of these developments still uncertain and a considerable number of proposals at hand, we’re well kept in suspense about the direction which the presumed race to the bottom might finally take. Having affirmed this enduring uncertainty, it is time to bring back to mind that this chapter’s focus on legal overlaps presents but one portion of the highly complex mutual impact between free trade and the global environment. With the future findings of new comprehensive research approaches, especially environmental impact assessments, some of this uncertainty should be transformed into a deeper understanding of the trade-environment nexus.


  • Political Science
  • WTO
  • Environment
  • global governance
  • interplay
  • climate change
  • biodiversity
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • CBD
  • WTO dispute resolution
  • WTO law
  • International Trade
  • trade
  • Trade and environment
  • trade barriers
  • political ecology


  • Miljöpolitik-lup-obsolete
Fariborz Zelli
E-mail: fariborz [dot] zelli [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se

Senior lecturer

Department of Political Science

+46 46 222 47 64



Associate professor

Department of Political Science



Fariborz is director of the NAVIGOV project. He received the outstanding Ph.D. thesis award of the University of Tübingen and the award for outstanding teaching performance of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

Ongoing research projects

Department of Political Science
Lund University
Visiting address: Paradisgatan 5H (House: Eden)
Postal address: Box 52, SE-221 00 LUND
Telephone: +46 46-222 89 52

Faculty of Social Sciences