Public morals concern as a relevant element of sustainable development in international trade


By Julián Huertas Cárdenas, researcher, LLM in International Law, Universidad de La Sabana (Colombia).


In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) presented “Our Common Future” report, better known as the Brundtland Report[i], which established the classical definition of sustainable development. In its Chapter 2, the report stated that “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. From that moment, the “idea” of sustainable development has become common in international law.

This definition has been the starting point for some scholars who have identified the essential elements of sustainable development, i.e.: the principle of intergenerational equity, the principle of sustainable use, the principle of equitable use or intragenerational equity, and the principle of integration[ii]. The purpose of this writing is to show that a new element –however different in nature- should complement the list of elements of sustainable development, at least from a practical approach: the public morals concern in international trade. As will be developed in the text, though public morals concern is not an essential principle of sustainable development as those abovementioned, it is a relevant element that should complement the main concept in order to get a more strong enforcement of the objectives set by environmental law, as was shown in the EC — Seal Products dispute decided by the Appellate Body (AB) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on May 22nd 2014. Continue reading “Public morals concern as a relevant element of sustainable development in international trade”