The WTO’s Shrimp-Turtle Decision: Free Trade vs. the Environment

Policy Forum
December 8, 1998 12:00PM
Hayek Auditorium
Featuring John H. Jackson, Georgetown University Law Center; Steven Charnovitz, Global Environment & Trade Study; David Schorr, World Wildlife Fund; and Kanthi Tripathi, Minister of Commerce, Embassy of India.

A Cato policy forum featuring John H. Jackson, Georgetown University Law Center, Steven Charnovitz, Global Environment & Trade Study, David Schorr, World Wildlife Fund, and Kanthi Tripathi, Minister of Commerce, Embassy of India. On October 12, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization upheld a U.S. law designed to protect sea turtles endangered by shrimp fishing but faulted the United States on how the law was being administered. Although it was immediately condemned by environmental groups, the decision has been hailed by some observers as an important affirmation of the right of nations to pursue conservation meansures. Does the WTO decision block the pursuit of legitimate environmental goals, or is it merely a signal that environmental policies must be carefully crafted to avoid arbitrary discrimination and unnecessary trade restriction?