The increasing scope and disciplinary force of international trading rules have generated concern in the international environmental community concerning how far different types of trade restrictions in multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) are compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Environmental Nongovernment Organizations (ENGOs) have argued that the WTO exerts a form of disciplinary neoliberalism that has a ‘chilling effect’ on both the implementation and negotiation of MEAs. This paper assesses this claim, particularly in the light of the stalled deliberations of the WTO's Committee on Trade and Environment and recent WTO jurisprudence, and concludes that the WTO's trade agreements do serve to limit the scope and operation of MEAs, albeit mostly in subtle rather than direct ways. After exploring a range of options for reform it is concluded that the prospects for greening the WTO from both within and without are by no means bright.
An earlier version of this paper was presented to the Australian Political Studies Association Conference, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 29 September–1 October 2003.