30 May 2012    Reports/ Presentations

Virtual Water Trade and International Trade Law

Fitzgerald Temmerman gives a brown bag seminar in the world trade institute, presenting a part of his reseach.

More efficient use of fresh water will be crucial in mitigating increased competition over this scarce resource, a situation which is predicted to be substantially accentuated by climate change. The water which was used during the production cycle of a good is considered to be virtually ‘embedded’ in this good. The ‘water footprint’ of a product indicates the total amount of water which was needed to produce a good (agricultural or industrial) in a certain place. Based on the water footprint concept, the ‘global water saving’ concept emerged in 2004, indicating that a certain amount of fresh water could be saved through international trade in ‘virtual water’. Looking into the water footprint data on agricultural products, one could thus assume that if crops with a higher water demand were being produced in water-rich regions and crops with a lower water demand were being produced in water-scarce regions, a significant amount of fresh water could be saved in water-scarce regions. In this regard, there are three highly relevant topics under the WTO international trade law framework: the legal status of irrigation subsidies; the possibility of using non-product related process and production methods as a criterion to distinguish between otherwise ‘like’ products; and the legal status of water footprint labelling under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Fitzgerald Temmerman will present the second part of his PhD on ‘virtual water trade and international trade law’ along with his preliminary research findings on the above-mentioned issues.