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Environmental Trade Barriers and International Competitiveness

March 1994

Citation: ELR 10109

Author: Lucas Bergkamp and Ray V. Hartwell

Editors' Summary: In their attempts to promote environmental protection domestically, countries are adopting measures that have impacts beyond their borders -- primarily on international trade. The interrelationship of environmental protection and free trade is especially evident from the recent negotiations involving NAFTA and the Uruguay Round of GATT. Harmonizing conflicts between environmentalists and free trade advocates has emerged as a major challenge to governments and other international players.

This Article examines the extraterritorial effects of national environmental laws and the impact of these laws on international economic competitiveness. After introducing a number of pending and recently adopted environmental measures in Europe, the authors discuss the current legal framework governing the impacts of "eco-barriers" -- the authors' term for environmental protection measures that act as impediments to free trade. The authors analyze U.S., European Union, and international law. Finally, the authors briefly address the impacts of eco-barriers on international competitiveness.

The authors conclude that fostering international free trade agreements with adequate measures to address environmental protection concerns is the most effective means of achieving the goals of all concerned.

Ray V. Hartwell III is a partner in the law firm of Hunton & Williams in Brussels, Belgium and Warsaw, Poland. Mr. Hartwell is a graduate of Washington & Lee University (B.A. 1969; J.D. summa cum laude, 1975). Lucas Bergkamp is an associate with Hunton & Williams in Brussels. Dr. Bergkamp is a graduate of the University of Amsterdam Faculty of Law (J.D. 1985; Ph.D. 1988), and holds degrees from the University of Amsterdam Faculty of Medicine (M.D. 1988) and Yale Law School (LL.M. 1989).

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