31 Aug 2017, NCCR working paper

The Legal Nature of Water in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994

by Melanie Berger, University of Bern melanie.berger5@gmail.com


Water is an essential natural resource for all life on Earth and for all ecosystems. There is no known substitute and a very grave increasing tension between fresh water demand and fresh water scarcity is observed. This paper focuses on water as a good subject to the GATT 1994 and analyzes the issue of when and how water as a natural resource becomes a good under the GATT 1994. It is examined if water in its natural state, in the form of bulk water transfers and as bottled water can be considered as a good subject to the GATT 1994. Subsequently, the obligations will be looked at, which could apply to the international trade of water. This paper aims to investigate what the possible consequences are when water is considered to be a tradable good under the GATT 1994. Special attention will be paid to the question whether water as a tradable good can contribute to sustainable development and sustainable water use.