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Environmental Ethics

Volume 31, Issue 1, Spring 2009

Nicole Hassoun
Pages 51-66

Free Trade and the Environment

What should environmentalists say about free trade? Many environmentalists object to free trade by appealing the “Race to the Bottom Argument.” This argument is inconclusive, but there are reasons to worry about unrestricted free trade’s environmental effects nonetheless; the rules of trade embodied in institutions such as the World Trade Organization may be unjustifiable. Programs to compensate for trade-related environmental damage, appropriate trade barriers, and consumer movements may be necessary and desirable. At least environmentalists should consider these alternatives to unrestricted free trade if they do not prevent the achievement of other important moral objectives, can efficiently reduce environmental problems, and institutional safeguards can prevent their abuse.

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