WWF Urges WTO to Correct Its Shrimp-Turtle Case Ruling | WWF

WWF Urges WTO to Correct Its Shrimp-Turtle Case Ruling

Posted on 28 July 1998    
GLAND, Switzerland -- The conservation organization WWF today released a second 'Amicus Curiae Brief' (Friend of the Court) report which calls on the World Trade Organization (WTO) to reassess it's original dispute panel decision against turtle conservation.

The amicus brief has been submitted to the WTO and the five government parties to the Shrimp-Turtle case - the United States versus India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand. This follows an appeal filed by the United States to the WTO (13 July, 1998) against its ruling which does not allow the US to discriminate against imports of shrimps that have been caught without using turtle exclusion devices (TEDs).

The WTO must use this appeal to correct its lop-sided judgement, said Charles Arden-Clarke, Head of WWF International's Trade and Investment Unit. Otherwise, it will only further shake peoples' confidence in the world trade body. It is clear that in this particular trade-related environmental dispute, there was no trade protectionist element - only a desire to save endangered sea turtles.

The new WWF amicus brief shows that the panel ruling of 6 April 1998 includes major 'legal and interpretative errors' in assessing the 'environmental exception' under GATT Article XX. WWF also challenges the panel's rejection of unsolicited amicus briefs (produced mainly by the non-governmental organizations) as an incorrect interpretation of the WTO agreement on dispute settlement (the DSU, Dispute Settlement Understanding), and of other relevant international law.

WWF believes the WTO must keep its environmental window open. However, the panel which ruled in April did just the opposite. Moreover, though that dispute panel had called environmental experts, their expertise was completely sidelined.

By setting a wrong precedent, the WTO will invite a rolling crisis for itself, added Mr Arden-Clarke. Waiting in the wings are many such conflicts. The Climate Change Convention will require new trade-related measures. The Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has a growing list of the earth's flora and fauna in danger of becoming extinct, which may need trade measures to protect them. And, if the WTO prevails over the Convention on Biological Diversity, unregulated trade may destroy the very plants that could hold the cure for deadly diseases like AIDS.

The seriously flawed interpretation of WTO rules by the original shrimp-turtle panel will undermine multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), if allowed to stand, said Mr Arden-Clarke. Unless this appeal overturns that ruling, countries that have freely entered MEAs will be prevented by the WTO from taking legitimate measures to protect and conserve sea turtles, and other parts of the Global Commons.

For more information, please contact Charles Arden-Clarke at +41 22 364 91 11 or Someshwar Singh at +41 22 364 95 53.

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