Linkages between trade and environmental protection have long been a concern to some U.S. policymakers and stakeholders. The central question is whether trade liberalization (i.e., the removal of barriers on the free exchange of goods and services between nations) advances shared economic and environmental goals. Some observers argue that economic expansion brought on by trade liberalization adversely impacts the environment. Among other concerns, they contend that for developing countries, international competition may lead them to adopt less stringent environmental standards or to engage in more polluting activities. Thus, they claim that environmental provisions are necessary in trade agreements to help raise or maintain international standards and protect U.S. businesses and workers from perceived unfair competition. Other policy makers and stakeholders believe that trade liberalization and environmental protection are mutually supportive. They argue that while economic growth may adversely impact the environment during the initial stages of industrialization, it can also provide resources to mitigate such effects as countries develop. They also argue that trade liberalization can support U.S. environmental goals through the elimination of tariffs on environmental goods, and the reduction of trade-distorting subsidies.
Date of Report: April 2, 2015
Order Number: IF10166
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