From Exception to Promotion: Re-Thinking the Relationship between International Trade and Environmental Law

Dr Elena Cima will present her new book From Exception to Promotion : Re-Thinking the Relationship between International Trade and Environmental Law. The book tells a new, unconventional story of the nexus between international trade and environmental law—a story in which the keyword is synergy rather than conflict, and where the trade regime was always meant for something greater than simply trade liberalization. This ‘something greater’ was peace in the first half of the twentieth century, and today is sustainable development, environmental protection, and social inclusion. Environmental protection is here presented neither as antithetical to the overarching purpose of the trading system nor simply as a ‘non-trade’ issue to be accommodated within the hard-driving logic of trade, but rather as part of the very nature and purpose of the trade regime.

For a long time, the key question at the heart of the ‘trade and environment’ debate has been: do existing trade rules provide countries with sufficient policy space to pursue a number of non-trade objectives, including protecting the environment and mitigating climate change? And this question has been guiding proposals and suggestions as to how to best interpret and reform existing WTO rules. This book parts from this traditional approach and argues that it should no longer be a matter of assessing whether and to what extent the multilateral trade regime simply allows countries to pursue environmental or climate objectives, but rather whether and to what extent it promotes, facilitates, and encourages these efforts. And it is against this backdrop that we should assess the adequacy of existing multilateral trade rules and explore how they can be reformed to ensure the positive role of trade rules in supporting environmental policy and facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The book is accessible open access here: Chapter 1 (Introduction) is required reading for this session. Chapter 6 (Conclusions) is suggested reading.

Dr Elena Cima is a Lecturer in International Law at the University of Geneva, where she teaches courses on international environmental law, energy law, and investment law. She is also the co-director of the University of Geneva’s Summer School in International Law and International Humanitarian Law.

Elena holds a PhD in International Law from the Geneva Graduate Institute, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Milan and an LL.M degree from Yale Law School.  She has published in several peer-reviewed journals on international environmental law, climate law, investment law, and trade law. Elena often participates in investment arbitrations as well as in international water and climate negotiations.

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