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The WTO is the only international agency overseeing the rules of international trade Its purpose is to help trade flow smoothly in a system based on rules to settle trade disputes between governments and to organise trade negotiations Carleton nd 3 In 1998 the WTO sparked quite a controversy among the environmental groups The WTO ruled that the United States was wrong to prohibit shrimp imports from countries that failed to protect seat turtles from entrapment in the nets of shrimp boats Hill 2001 p187 even though sea turtles was considered to be endangered As Weinstein and Charnovitz 2001 suggests that although the WTO is often depicted to be anti-environmentalist this reputation is largely undeserved and misunderstood A careful look at the WTOs record shows that the organisation is in fact developing constructive principles for accommodating both trade and environmental concerns Weinstein and Charnovitz 2001 p1 Explained by Friedrich von Kirchbach in an interview the WTO takes measures to protect the health and safety of wildlife plants animals and humans as well as environment generally all of which are possible under WTO rules Kirchbach 2001 p1 Due to the fishing debate a large misconception was that the WTO is undemocratic and only serves interest of multinational corporations Decisions in the WTO are generally by consensus In principle that is even more democratic than majority rule as everyone has to agree In order to be non-discriminative between countries the WTO adopts a most favoured nation treatment WTO 2003 1 Equal treatment is an overwhelmingly important and useful principle for both fairness and efficiency It is still debatable whether the WTO can be seen as a positive externality to the world economy As suggested by Weinstein and Charnovitz 2001 the organisation needs to figure out how to manage the clash between its open trade agenda and its trade restrictions to protect the environment The WTO must strike a balance between the two extremes Weinstein
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