Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


Brian F. Chase


The troubled relationship between tropical forests and trade policy underscores the broader tension that exists between freer world trade and global environmental protection. Tropical forests are disappearing at alarming rates, yet the international community seems largely unwilling or unable to act. Consequently, individual countries in recent years have shown an increasing willingness to fill this void by imposing environmentally motivated trade restrictions on tropical timber products. In this Article, the author examines the legality under GATT of these unilateral attempts, which have the twin aims of preventing tropical deforestation and promoting sustainable development. The author argues that most current unilateral attempts to restrict tropical timber exports and imports do not prevent tropical deforestation nor do they promote sustainable forestry practices in the tropics. The author further contends that the majority of these unilateral trade restrictions constitute non-tariff barriers to trade prohibited under GATT and should not be used. The author suggests, however, that a number of GATT-legal alternatives are available to encourage sustainable forestry practices worldwide. Such alternatives could be employed at both multilateral and unilateral levels.