3 - The precautionary principle in international law  pp. 33-75

The precautionary principle in international law

By Joakim Zander

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Introduction

The development and status of the precautionary principle in international environmental law has been chronicled in detail by a number of scholars. The purpose of this chapter is not to reiterate their findings in detail, but merely to highlight a number of the most important and influential international instruments and cases which have shaped the modern application of the precautionary principle. More specifically, the focus of this chapter is on how states can use precautionary considerations to justify trade restrictive measures. In this regard the WTO Agreements are of primary importance.

The role of the precautionary principle under the WTO A greements has been a highly contested issue over the last ten years, and it has been the subject of a number of disputes before the WTO dispute settlement bodies. Generally, the European Union and its Member States have emerged as champions of a precautionary approach which functions as an instrument to justify national or regional regulation in the face of scientific uncertainty and controversy. On the other hand, the United States and other countries have positioned themselves as advocates of a more ‘science-based’ approach. The stakes involved have often been high and the rhetoric heated.

Like the other chapters of this book, this one aims to go beyond the political statements and the various definitions of the ‘precautionary principle’, and derivates thereof, to investigate in detail how WTO Panels and the Appellate Body (AB) have come to describe how and when Members of the WTO can act ‘precautionary’.

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