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The Epic Struggle for Dolphin-Safe Tuna: To Be Continued—A Case for Accommodating Nonprotectionist Eco-labels in the WTO

Posted by on Friday, May 30, 2014 in Notes, Vol. 47 No. 3, Volume 47, Volumes.

In May 2012, the World Trade Organization (WTO) struck down the United States’ dolphin-safe tuna labeling standard as a barrier to trade that is prohibited by the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT). The analysis in the US-Tuna II report questions the validity of standardized eco-labels enforced by WTO Member States, which are an increasingly popular means to achieve environmental and consumer protection. This Note considers the merits of state-backed eco-labeling schemes, the implications of the US-Tuna II report for the WTO’s approach to nontrade interests, and potential accommodations within the current WTO framework for eco-labels. It ultimately suggests that WTO dispute resolution bodies depart from US-Tuna II; instead of rejecting environmental legislation that has any discriminatory effect upon trade, future decisions should concentrate upon whether the statute is intended to serve a protectionist purpose. It also suggests that the WTO consider awarding monetary aid to ease developing nations’ financial or technological burdens in complying with upheld regulations.

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