GEG WP 2016/113 20 Years of Debate on Environment, Trade and Sustainable Development at the WTO: A Literature Review (1995-2015)

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In 1995, the launch of the WTO provoked a chorus of criticism from environmental advocates. After 20 years, how has the trade and environment debate evolved at the WTO and where does it currently stand? Although much has been written over the past two decades on the politics of trade and environment issues at the WTO, this paper is the first review of the literature over that full period. The review traces the evolution of debate and action at the WTO on trade and the environment from 1995 to 2015, drawing on scholarly work, NGO policy papers, media reports, submissions by stakeholder groups, WTO Secretariat documents, and government statements in WTO Ministerial meetings. The review concludes with some preliminary findings. To inform future work on environment and sustainable development at the WTO, it calls for an assessment of progress and lessons learned, drawing on the review to propose some of the research questions that should guide such efforts.

This working paper is a preliminary output of a book project on the politics and lessons learned from 20 years of debate on trade, environment and sustainable development at the WTO. Comments and suggestions are invited at: