Want not, waste not: A realist theory of the international trade in hazardous waste
This dissertation addresses the puzzle of a glaring discrepancy between conventional explanations of the international trade in hazardous waste and the reality of that trade. Relying on the best available evidence regarding transboundary movements of hazardous waste between 1979 and 1988, the study finds that very little hazardous waste was shipped from industrialized to developing countries, and that the largest volumes of waste were traded among industrialized countries. Conventional explanations suggested strongly that the primary direction of international transfers of hazardous waste should be from industrialized to developing countries. A review of the literature on the waste trade reveals that these conventional explanations are based on either liberal or radical assumptions about the nature of the international economic relations, and uncovers two gaps: first the theories have not been tested against the evidence, and second, no theory has been formulated to explain the facts of the waste trade from the realist perspective. The dissertation develops and tests a realist explanation of why, on the one hand, so little hazardous waste has moved to developing countries, and on the other hand some industrialized states have been willing to import it. The dissertation argues that the direction, quantity, and composition of transfrontier movements of hazardous waste depend upon policies and behaviors of would-be importing states. That is, states weigh the risks and benefits of importing waste in terms of economics, domestic politics, foreign policy, and even environmental protection. If a state perceives that the risks of importing hazardous waste outweigh the benefits, it is unlikely to import it. If, on the other hand, a states perceives that benefits exceed risks, it is likely to import it. This hypothesis is tested in three cases involving Guinea-Bissau, a tiny, poor, developing country; Mexico, a large developing country; and the United Kingdom, a large developed country. The study confirms that the importing states' calculations of their national interest, not the calculations of exporting states or their firms, are a key determinant of the amount, composition, and direction of transboundary movements of hazardous waste.
0616: International relations