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Volume 24, Issue 10 — October 1994


Dolphins and Tuna: An Analysis of the Second GATT Panel Report

by Steve Charnovitz

Editors' Summary: On May 20, 1994, a three-member dispute panel of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) held that the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which provides authority for the United States to embargo tuna from other countries, violates GATT. The ensuing debate has focused on two issues: (1) the decision's effect on the intersection of domestic environmental protection/conservation measures and international trade law in the context of GATT; and (2) how the United States should respond in light of diplomatic pressure, public perception that the United States might be relinquishing sovereignty, and efforts to maintain GATT's integrity. The author describes the background of the dispute and the panel's decision, including relevant MMPA provisions and GATT processes and provisions. He also comments in detail about the panel's decision with respect to the MMPA-based tuna embargoes in light of a prior GATT panel decision that held that a U.S. embargo on Mexican tuna and tuna products harvested in the eastern tropical Pacific violated GATT. The author also delves into the GATT review process and considers whether it is optimal for environmental disputes. Finally, the author makes several recommendations, including suggested changes to GATT review of domestic environmental laws, and advice that the United States alter the MMPA to conform with GATT and strongly oppose the adoption of the panel decision by the GATT Council.


Reinventing Government Inspections: Proposed Reform of the Occupational Safety and Health Act

by Douglas L. Tookey

In September 1991, 25 people died at the Imperial Food Products plant in Hamlet, North Carolina, when they were trapped in a factory fire. Witnesses to the fire said the employees could not escape because the building doors were locked, apparently to prevent pilferage. The North Carolina assistant labor commissioner subsequently stated that the locked doors constituted "serious violations" of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). The plant, however, had never been inspected for health or safety violations in its 11 years of operation. In fact, with the number of inspectors in North Carolina at that time, it would have taken 65 years to visit every workplace in the state. OSH Act reform advocates cite the Imperial Food Plant fire to argue that worker protection laws must be strengthened.

Vice President Al Gore has suggested that the OSH Act might be a good place to start "reinventing government," and has proposed reforms intended to increase the frequency of inspections without hiring hundreds of new federal inspectors. Gore's report, Creating a Government That Works Better and Costs Less (the National Performance Review Report), champions privatizing the occupational safety and health inspection process to reduce government costs and encourage voluntary compliance with regulations. This Dialogue explores some of the advantages and disadvantages of Gore's proposed reforms, discusses the differences between Gore's proposal and reform bills currently pending before Congress, and addresses the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL's) views on OSH Act reform.

EPA's International Assistance Efforts: Developing Effective Environmental Institutions and Partners

by Ruth Greenspan Bell

In recent years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has expanded its programs to assist governments around the world in building their capacity to protect the environment. This effort serves policies embodied in a variety of treaties, appropriations, and other legislative and executive decisions. A small but important part of this work is the effort to help other countries develop an effective legal framework for environmental protection.

This Dialogue begins with a brief overview of EPA's international assistance efforts. Next, it highlights the major potential benefits flowing from international environmental assistance programs, and some of the challenges facing those programs. The Dialogue then illustrates the special challenges and opportunities of legal assistance by describing EPA's effort to provide environmental law assistance to Russia. The Dialogue concludes that environmental legal assistance has the potential to encourage broad reforms with benefits that extend beyond the environmental area.