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The “Preference for Pollution” and Other Fallacies, or Why Free Trade Isn’t “Progress” Absent the Harmonization of Environmental Standards

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Chapter Summary

One of the most striking developments in international organization since Professor Manley O. Hudson published his collection of essays in 1932, 1 has been the dramatic expansion of international trade. For Professor Hudson, these early efforts at harmonization clearly represented "progress". In his view, there were two reasons to harmonize international standards in a world of free trade. This economic point of view currently dominates international trade policy, and has been institutionalized in international trade treaties and the policies of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The level-playing-field argument is closely related to the argument that harmonization is necessary to avoid a "race to the bottom" among countries involved in free trade. With its focus on capital mobility, the race-to-the-bottom literature has tended to get bogged down in the empirical question of whether capital actually does move in response to differing environmental standards.

Keywords: capital mobility; harmonization; race to the bottom; World Trade Organization (WTO)



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