The Epic Struggle for Dolphin-Safe Tuna: To Be Continued—A Case for Accommodating Nonprotectionist Eco-labels in the WTO
In May 2012, the World Trade Organization (WTO) struck down the United States’ dolphin-safe tuna labeling standard as a barrier to trade that is prohibited by the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT). The analysis in the US-Tuna II report questions the validity of standardized eco-labels enforced by WTO Member States, which are an increasingly popular means to achieve environmental and consumer protection. This Note considers the merits of state-backed eco-labeling schemes, the implications of the US-Tuna II report for the WTO’s approach to nontrade interests, and potential accommodations within the current WTO framework for eco-labels. It ultimately suggests that WTO dispute resolution bodies depart from US-Tuna II; instead of rejecting environmental legislation that has any discriminatory effect upon trade, future decisions should concentrate upon whether the statute is intended to serve a protectionist purpose. It also suggests that the WTO consider awarding monetary aid to ease developing nations’ financial or technological burdens in complying with upheld regulations.
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