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L'écolabel est-il un outil du protectionnisme « vert »?

Listed author(s):
  • Kristin Bartenstein
  • Sophie Lavallée
Registered author(s):

    The Rio Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, certainly stands out as an unprecedented turnabout in planetary awareness of environmental concerns and the need for reconciliating the three axes of sustainable development, namely economic, social and environmental issues. The Rio Declaration sets forth 27 principles intended to orient the achievement of this vast project for humanity. Among these principles, the eighth one encourages States to[ ] reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption[ ]." By informing consumers of the net environmental impact of a product, the ecolabel may become a tool for sustainable development. Might it also be, however, a tool for green protectionism? This issue is inevitable owing to the multiplication of ecolabel programs worldwide since the phenomenal expansion of ecolables, applauded by some yet raising doubts among others who are questioning the conformity of these ecological labels with the international business rules set forth by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Not only is this issue a current one, it has also remained the subject of intense discussions within WTO for several years now. Our paper attempts to analyze the conformity of the ecolabel programs with the relevant provisions of WTO accords. As our analysis demonstrates, the very nature of the ecolabels, as they are currently designed, is such that they should not violate the rules of law governing these accords. Yet, the existence of a debate on the conformity of ecolables with international business rules is symptomatic of a non-so-negligible political and economic conflict concerning this issue. In the final analysis, we conclude that discussions should continue, but at another level, namely within the harmonization of the rules governing ecolabel programs in order to minimize the political and economic problems that ecolabels may likely cause. " Le Sommet de la Terre, tenu à Rio de Janeiro, en 1992, a certainement marqué un tournant sans précédent dans la prise de conscience des enjeux environnementaux de la planète et de la nécessité de concilier les trois pôles du développement durable que sont l'économique, le social et l'environnement. La Déclaration de Rio énonce 27 principes devant guider la réalisation de ce grand dessein pour l'humanité. Parmi ces derniers, le principe 8 encourage les États à « [ ] réduire et éliminer les modes de production et de consommation non viables ». En informant le consommateur de l'impact environnemental net d'un produit, l'écolabel peut devenir un outil du développement durable. Cependant, peut-il aussi être un outil du protectionnisme vert? Cette question s'impose devant la multiplication des programmes d'écolabels à l'échelle mondiale puisque l'expansion du phénomène des écolabels, applaudie par les uns, suscite néanmoins des doutes chez les autres qui remettent en question la conformité de ces labels écologiques avec les règles du commerce international édictées sous l'égide de l'Organisation mondiale du commerce (OMC). Cette question toujours actuelle suscite de vives discussions dans l'enceinte de l'OMC depuis quelques années déjà. Notre article se propose d'analyser la conformité des programmes d'écolabel avec les dispositions pertinentes des accords de l'OMC. Comme notre étude le montrera, la nature même des écolabels, tels qu'ils sont conçus actuellement, fait en sorte qu'ils ne devraient pas violer les règles de droit qui président à ces accords. Toutefois, l'existence d'un débat sur la conformité des écolabels avec les règles du commerce international est le signe d'un conflit politique et économique potentiel, et non négligeable, sur cette question. En dernière analyse, nous concluons que la discussion devrait être poursuivie, mais à un autre niveau, à savoir celui de l'harmonisation des règles régissant les programmes d'écolabels en vue de minimiser les problèmes politiques et économiques que les écolabels sont susceptibles d'engendrer.

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    Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 2004s-39.

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    Length: 37 pages
    Date of creation: 01 Aug 2004
    Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2004s-39
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