ABSTRACT

Supporters of the principle of free trade and environmentalists are often perceived as pursuing different agendas and objectives. Free traders stress the clear economic benefits to be gained from increased competition in global markets, 1 while to environmentalists it is all too apparent that increased economic growth brought about by such liberalisation of trade can place severe pressures on the natural environment. 2 Polarisation of the debate is said to be exacerbated by a perceived clash of cultures between the two opposing camps, Jackson noting that environmentalists would wish to encourage the influence of non-governmental organisations and participation of the public in as open a policy-making process as is possible, whilst the free trade lobby “tend to operate more in secret or use non-public processes in the habit of traditional diplomacy and elites”. 3 This clash of cultures has purportedly increased distrust and confusion between trade and environmental specialists. 4 However, to look at the relationship between trade and the environment solely as an antagonistic one beyond reconciliation would be misleading. The opening up of a market to an environmentally sensitive product previously unknown in that region may serve both to liberalise trade between nations and offer greater protection to the environment. Neither interest is compromised and trade and environment policies can be seen to be “mutually supportive”, a vital element in the pursuit of sustainable development. 5