Increasing Institutional Overlap and Conflict among International Institutions

At first glance, one might wonder about the widespread existence of legal conflicts between international trade and environmental agreements, especially among those which have been negotiated and adopted by nearly identical parties. At second glance, however, the counterintuitive observation of international regime overlap or even regime conflict should not come as a total surprise—for particularly two reasons. First of all, since the end of World War II, international relations have been marked by a growing interdependence of widely disparate policy areas, entailing a corresponding increase in the number of international organizations and regimes. Further impetus has been given by the ending of the Cold War, principally for institutions with subject matters beyond the "classical" issues of international security and economic integration. As a result, observers are counting between 200 and over 700 MEAs at the time of writing—depending on the criteria applied for their definition (e.g., issues to be considered as environmental, minimum number of states parties, consideration of soft law, etc.).* Most of these rule systems have been developed independently of each other, do cover different geographic and substantial scopes, and are partly marked by very different patterns of codification, institutionalization and cohesion, including different compliance mechanisms and sanctioning capacities.

* The lower number represents the concise WTO understanding of the term (cf. http://www.wto. org/english/tratop_e/envir_e/cte01_e.htm [25 April 2006]). The higher number is derived from the International Environmental Agreements Website, by R.B. Mitchell, available at http://www. (25 April 2006) (cf. Mitchell 2003).

Second, this fragmentation of international law is considerably advanced in the fields of trade and environment due to the cross-cutting nature of both issues.* On the one hand, whatever can be traded can fall under WTO jurisdiction, a fact which is well exemplified by the agenda of the international trade regime which has been steadily expanding [31]. Today, no less than 60 legal instruments under the auspices of the WTO cover a multitude of different policy fields, from agriculture to labor rights and from international finance to telecommunications. On the other hand, many issues regulated by MEAs such as biological diversity, climate change or ozone layer depletion touch upon such different fields as technology, lifestyle—and trade.

Already in 1996, the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment identified "about 20" multilateral environmental agreements containing trade provisions.* Clearly, overlap does not equal collision: not all of these provisions are incompatible with WTO law. But wherever MEA regulations come into conflict with international trade rules, they basically do so on the same grounds as domestic environmental regulations. They either collide over import restrictions due to particular PPMs and product qualities, or they clash because of flanking conditions such as precautionary risk assessment, prior informed consent procedures or product labeling.

Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

Always wanted to get a better deal but didn't have the needed negotiation skills? Here are some of the best negotiation theories. The ability to negotiate is a skill which everyone should have. With the ability to negotiate you can take charge of your life, your finances and your destiny. If you feel that others are simply born with the skill to negotiate, you should know that everyone can learn this wonderful skill.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment