Virtual Water Trade and International Trade Law
More efficient use of fresh water will be crucial in mitigating increased competition over this scarce resource, which is predicted to be substantially accentuated by climate change. The water footprint of a commodity indicates the total amount of water which was used to produce this commodity at a certain place, and is considered to be virtually embedded in this commodity. Based on the water footprint concept, the ‘global water saving’ concept emerged, indicating that a certain amount of fresh water could be saved through trade in virtually embedded water or so-called ‘virtual water trade’. At present, agriculture accounts for approximately 70 % of global fresh water use. Looking into the water footprint data on agricultural commodities, one could thereby assume that if water-intensive crops were primarily produced in water-rich regions and subsequently traded to the more water-stressed regions, a significant amount of fresh water could be saved in the latter. In this regard, there are three highly relevant topics under the WTO international trade law framework: the legal status of irrigation (and related) subsidies under the Agreement on Agriculture, 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 private voluntary water footprint labelling under the TBT Agreement.
Biography of the speaker
Fitzgerald Temmerman holds a Licentiate in Law from Ghent University in Belgium (2003), and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of Bern in Switzerland (2004). After his studies he joined the Belgian law firm Flanderslaw - Advocaten, which is based in Ostend and Bruges. During the academic year 2007–2008 he joined the World Trade Institute as a research fellow, assisting the ILA Committee 'International Law on Biotechnology' in drafting its 2008 interim report. He was admitted as a lawyer to the Flemish Bar (Belgium) in 2009. He rejoined the World Trade Institute in October 2009, taking up research as a Ph.D. student under Work Package 5 on Trade and Climate Change of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Trade Regulation. His Ph.D. dissertation, supervised by Prof. Thomas Cottier, is entitled 'Access to fresh water and international trade law'.