Will the WTO Prevent the Growth of Ethical Trade?: Implications of Potential Changes to WTO Rules for Environmental and Social Standards in the Forest Sector

Anna Tollontire and Michael E. Blowfield
Publication Date: 
Whilst its promoters believe that there are numerous benefits to be gained by many producers from ethical trade, some stakeholders in the South see ethical trade schemes as protectionist. Current wisdom is that if a scheme is voluntary and is open to all it does not contravene the rules of the World Trade Organisation. However this has not been tested in the WTO itself and there is considerable debate within its committees and other forums including the committee on Technical Barriers to Trade and the Committee on Trade and Environment.
. This paper, which is part of ongoing work to understand the external factors that might alter the impact of ethical trade, explores those factors pushing the development of ethical trade and also the potential constraints. Finally the implications for current ethical trading schemes will be considered. Reference will be made to initiatives in the forest sector including forest certification and ethical markets for non-timber forest products, which is particularly topical as forest sector liberalisation is amongst the proposed agenda items for the WTO negotiations in Seattle.