This concept of lowering standards is especially true of how the WTO has ruled on trade matters related to the environment. The articles within the WTO related to the environment are nothing more than window dressing, since excuses have constantly been made to not rule according to the provisions. The cases below illustrate how the GATT/WTO's rhetoric falls vastly short of the environmental reality of its decisions:
* Tuna-dolphin - This case heard before the GATT/WTO dealt with US restrictions on countries that are not using methods that protect dolphins from drowning in tuna nets (i.e., tuna caught in purse-seine nets that resulted in the deaths of dolphins). The dispute panel claimed that GATT did not permit production-based trade restrictions, and then, in a further twist on common sense, claimed that the restriction was aimed at forcing countries to change their policies, rather than at promoting marine conservation.
* Clean Air Act - This GATT/WTO case dealt with US legislation concerning taxes and restrictions on the import of refined gasoline. Again, a decision resulted that was detrimental to environmental protection. The GATT panel criticized the US for failing to take into account the costs the Clean Air Act would place on foreign oil producers and for failing to pursue cooperative agreements with countries affected. The concept of the economic costs of global warming and air pollution seemed irrelevant to the decision.
* Canada fish processing This dispute centered on a Canadian restriction on the import of unprocessed salmon and herring. Canada argued that the restriction was related to the country's efforts to prevent over-fishing by ensuring Canadian fishermen did not lose the value of their more limited catch. In response, the GATT claimed the processing requirement was not "necessary" to protect fish stocks, and that its primary purpose was to protect the domestic fishing industry, not to promote conservation.
In all of these cases, environmental concerns become invisible; and every issue is viewed through economic considerations. Decisions are, in part, based on the panels' interpretations of the aim of the restriction. Obviously, there is an element of trade restriction to the environmental trade measures. But these measures were developed in response to environmental issues rather than economic issues. Economic factors were included as motivators for the ultimate goal of environmental protection.
Within these decisions lies the inherent flaw within the WTO concerning its apparent view of environmental issues. The WTO fails to represent a world view in matters related to environmental protection. The WTO through these rulings has sought to undermine and destroy domestic environmental laws that have international reach.
The flaws of the WTO are not limited to the way in which it has dealt with environmental issues. Within the WTO, there are numerous serious flaws: its suppression of democratic process, its prevention of public participation, and its threat to health and safety standards.