Abstract

The sea turtle has become an icon ofenvironmentalist opposition to the World Trade Organization. Two decisions by the WTO in 1998 against a United States law intended to force other countries to adopt more turtle-friendly rules attracted widespread attention. A third decision in 2001 which supported the US law, however, went almost entirely unnoticed. A closer examination ofthe three decisions suggests that the WTO willingly accepts the idea ofenvironmental restrictions to international trade applied unilaterally by countries. But it requires that the restrictions be fairly applied and nondiscriminatory, show signs of being effective, and be accompanied by efforts to deal with the environmental issue cooperatively. These are all requirements that environmentalists should find unobjectionable. As such, the cause of more effective international environmental management might better be served ifenvironmental activists and NGOs worked with the WTO rather than reacting automatically against it.

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