The WTO is NOT a closed box.

Author:Marceau, Gabrielle
Position:Trade, Investment, and the Environment: Closed Boxes? - Proceedings of the One Hundredth Annual Meeting of the American Society of International Law: A Just World Under Law

I am honored and delighted to be here today. This is the first time that I have spoken at the ASIL Annual Meeting, which fulfills an old professional dream of mine. And this is the ASIL Centennial, which is so nice. I would like to thank the organizers, in particular Professor Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, for having invited me.

I have to begin by stating that the views that I may express during this conference are strictly personal and do not bind the WTO members or the WTO Secretariat.

I agree with my colleague Franz that trade and environment can be mutually supportive-this is reflected in the WTO, and in several other international instruments and forums. In fact, all actions of states should be mutually supportive of our sustainable development. Indeed sustainable development is a WTO objective mentioned in the Preamble.

Trade, investment, and the environment are not closed boxes--they cannot be, since they need each other to expand in a sustainable manner. But I have only ten minutes, so let's focus on the legal situation of the WTO in this respect, both internally and externally.


There are no closed boxes within the WTO, which is a "Single Undertaking." The Single Undertaking refers to two different concepts: the "single political undertaking," refers to the method of negotiations ("nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," which is not inconsistent with the possibility of early implementation (early harvest)), and the "single legal undertaking" which refers to the notion that the results of the negotiations form a "single package" to be implemented as one single treaty.

I am referring here to the principle that the WTO is legally a Single Undertaking. Early on, the WTO jurisprudence confirmed that "all WTO obligations are generally cumulative and Members must comply with all of them simultaneously." Therefore, in light of the interpretive principle of effectiveness, "it is the duff of any treaty interpreter to 'read all applicable provisions of a treaty in a way that gives meaning to all of them, harmoniously.' An important corollary of this principle is that a treaty should be interpreted as a whole, and, in particular, its sections and parts should be read as a whole."

This principle has had tremendous impact on the interpretation and application of several WTO provisions. The two recent disputes between strong developing countries and the European Union and the United States (the...

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