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Selective Enforcement of Trade Laws: A Problem in Need of Fixing to Advance Environmental Goals?

August 2019

Citation: ELR 10751

Author: Jay C . Campbell

Prof. Timothy Meyer has written a thought-provoking article about how governments selectively enforce trade laws in ways that undermine environmental interests. He argues trade enforcement against products with social benefits (i.e., renewable energy and farmed fish) slows their development and results in an implicit subsidy for products with social costs (i.e., fossil fuels and wild-caught fish)—at the expense of products with social benefits. Professor Meyer’s argument is convincing, and this Comment agrees that selective enforcement of trade laws results in an implicit subsidy for fossil fuels and wild-caught fish and is therefore problematic. To address the problem, Professor Meyer proposes ways to increase enforcement of trade laws against imports of fossil fuels and wild-caught fish. In other words, the author’s prescription “is to address selective enforcement of trade obligations by increasing enforcement.” Here, this Comment diverges with Professor Meyer’s views by questioning whether evenhanded enforcement (1) can be achieved, and (2) even if achievable, would help address the underlying problem: governments need to increase investments in renewable energy and aquaculture, and phase out investments in fossil fuels and fisheries.

Jay C. Campbell is a Partner in the International Trade Group of White & Case LLP.

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