Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been a significant force in the liberalization of trade across international borders since its inception in 1995. Commentators suggest that its reforms have converted the focus of international trade policy from removal of barriers to positive policy-making--a field historically occupied by domestic authorities. And although largely successful in the promotion of international trade, the Authors suggest that the binding provisions of the WTO ignore non-trade concerns such as environmental protection, consumer rights, labor rights, and state sovereignty. The Agreement's inattention to these related concerns is the primary locus of criticism of the WTO, culminating in the breakdown of the 1999 Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, Washington. The Article examines the relationship between the Agreement and environmental, consumer protection, and labor policy, as well as the implications of WTO membership on state sovereignty. The Authors conclude that to improve the WTO's treatment of non-trade concerns, the WTO must increase participation to include non-trade stakeholders, develop and support expertise within the WTO to address non-trade concerns, and follow the "blueprint" articulated in the Ministerial Declaration at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in Doha. The Declaration recognizes the importance of non-trade concerns and suggests a course of action that is likely to require the WTO to more squarely address the relationship between trade and non-trade policy.