Integrating environmental protection into ASEAN trading system is pivotal for ensuring long-term economic development and environmental sustainability. Due to its resource-based economy, ASEAN's economic performance highly depends on the sustainable condition of the environment. The ASEAN approach prioritizing economic growth without environmental consideration leads to environmental degradation and economic loss. Many transboundary environmental problems in ASEAN result from unsustainable production methods aiming to maximize advantages in trade competition. There are growing international efforts in addressing production and process methods as a part of the sustainable development goal. Major trading partners of ASEAN increasingly employ unilateral environmental trade measures and environmental provisions in trade agreements to induce sustainable production in exporting countries. Despite its trade-restrictive characteristic and extraterritorial effects, the environmental trade measure can be justified on the environmental ground according to the WTO/GATT rules. Although ASEAN should integrate environmental protection for its own interest, the actual implementation depends on member states as ASEAN is a state-centric regional organization. The political regimes of member states prioritize economic growth over environmental protection, suppress civil participation, disregard human rights to the healthy environment, and insist on a strict application of the ASEAN Way, refusing any intervention in all internal affairs. The lack of democratic norms and human rights assimilation intensify the rule of non-intervention. As a result, ASEAN environmental governance remains weak without effective engagement. Therefore, to integrate environmental protection in trade, ASEAN needs to unlock the ASEAN Way impasse and become more people-centered by having ASEAN representatives democratically elected, enhancing participation from non-state actors, particularly environmental groups, and strengthening a linkage between environmental protection and economic development.
Supsoontornkul, Kittinut, "Integrating Environmental Protection into ASEAN Trading System" (2021). Dissertations & Theses. 28.