Keywords: global environmental institutions, greening the GATT/WTO, institutional learning processes, trade and the environment
Institutional learning within the WTO regime: an evolutionary perspective on the trade—environment dispute
The assessment of interactions between trade and the environment is dominated by intensive ideological and scientific controversies. These controversies also influence the development of international rules for trade within the GATT/WTO regime. Despite recognition of the need for accepted institutional rules, only slow institutional changes can be observed. The connection of environmental protection with protectionist measures favouring old industrial and agricultural sectors makes it especially difficult to define accepted and objectiflable criteria for justifiable trade interventions. This paper analyses the incentives within the GATT/WTO regime to use institutional experiences for learning processes and institutional reforms. By using an interdisciplinary methodology of evolutionary economics and political science, new procedural criteria to identify learning efforts are developed. These criteria offer opportunities to show the reform potential within and outside the international trade system to overcome common misunderstandings and controversies.