Professor Rachel Brewster participated the World Trade Organization’s annual public forum in September, where she discussed the complex interaction of trade, sustainability of natural resources, and environmental protection.
The WTO Public Forum in Geneva brought together international lawyers, economists, and members of non-governmental organizations to address the state of the multilateral trading system. Brewster joined participants from the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the WTO’s legal affairs division on a panel titled “Perspectives on Sustainability: Renewable Resources, Trade and WTO Governance.”
“The panel focused on the possibilities and pitfalls of using trade measures to conserve limited global resources,” Brewster said.
The complex web of regulatory schemes governing trade and environmental issues make the topic complicated, but their linkage is undeniable, she explained. “As a tool for dealing with climate change, trade measures will be part of any environmental agenda,” she said. As the primary body dealing with global rules of trade between nations, the WTO can play a part in moderating international disagreements on climate change policy.
Brewster, who serves as co-director of the Duke Center for International and Comparative Law, focuses her scholarly research and teaching on the areas of international law and international relations theory, and international trade. She served as legal counsel in the Office of the United States Trade Representative in 2008.
Her scholarship on the interaction of trade and climate change includes a 2010 paper, “Stepping Stone or Stumbling Block: Incrementalism in National Climate Change Legislation,” (Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 28, No. 2, 2010), in which she addresses the effect of incremental domestic environmental legislation on international attempts to mitigate climate change. The annual WTO Public Forum is an important access point to the organization, Brewster noted.
“The WTO isn’t as transparent as the United Nations. It’s hard for NGOs or the public to have access to the WTO, so the organization tries to promote public discussion by hosting this annual three-day public forum,” she said.