Confluence of the law of fresh water resources and international trade : do Canada’s international trade obligations apply to Canada’s fresh water resources?


University of British Columbia

Date Issued


Document Type



Master of Laws - LLM




This thesis explores whether international trade rules apply to Canada’s fresh water resources. In order to determine if international trade rules apply, in particular the rules contained in GATT 1947, GATT 1994, and NAFTA, three questions are posed by the author. The first question focuses the enquiry on the legal characterization of fresh water resources in the selected international legal instruments to determine the obligations contained in the trade agreements apply. The second question is, if the first question cannot be answered, what other interpretive tools can be employed to come to an answer. Finally, the third question is, if international trade obligations apply the the bulk export of fresh water resources, are there any exemptions which can be employed to limit or prohibit the bulk export of the resource. In order to answer these questions, the author applies a traditional legal doctrinal analysis. This provides a method of analyzing the legal texts of the international agreements and other legal materials in an orderly and systematic manner. Using this methodology, the author engages with the primary materials to determine the ordinary meaning of the words and phrases used in the texts. In addition to the analysis of the legal texts, the author reviews the history of the development of Canada’s international trade and foreign policy through the lens of the international relations theory of exogenous shock. By using the theory of exogenous shock as an interpretive aid, the author is able to provide justification in concluding that the preferred interpretation that Canada’s international trade obligations found in GATT and NAFTA do not apply to Canada’s fresh water resources.

Date Available



Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International




Law, Peter A. Allard School of