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Political Science


As has been made clear by the other contributions to this debate, much of one’s analysis of the question of “pollution havens” depends upon how one frames the question. While I do not wish to repeat the arguments that have been made by the preceeding authors, I would like to suggest that it is useful to characterize the literature in economics on pollution havens in terms of its choices among two independent variables and three dependent variables. In seeking to identify which environmental factors might influence the global economy, scholars have generally focused on either expenditures on pollution abatement or on the relative “dirtiness” of different industries (generally measured in terms of toxic emissions). In order to determine the effects of these causal factors, most authors have examined intercountry differences in industrial structure, trade flows, and foreign direct investment (FDI). It is thus posible to place much of the literature within a 2x3 grid based on the choices made within this menu of independent and dependent variables. Lucas, Wheeler, and Hettige, for instance, have studied the effect of toxic emissions on industrial structure, while Tobey has investigated the effects of environmental compliance costs on patterns of trade.1

It is important to recognize, however, that the questions posed within this grid do not exhaust the research questions that are relevant to the study of pollution havens. A broader framing of the question underlying the debate might go as follows: to what extent do the environmental transformations associated with particular sectors influence their international siting patterns? Posing the question in this way would move the debate away from the questions of intentionality and regulatory costs addressed in this issue by David Wheeler (while still, of course, encompassing them) and towards the consequences, anticipated and otherwise, of environmental degradation. This article attempts to address new aspects of this broader question by departing from the existing literature in two ways. First, I address the consequences for international siting patterns of another aspect of environmental transformations: environmentally-oriented protest. While protest often results in tightened regulatory conditions, it also affects firms by creating non-regulatory difficulties in the actual siting and construction of plants and by generating uncertainty about future regulation. The connections between environmentally-oriented protest and the actual environmental problems caused by different sectors are not, of course, air-tight; it is possible that protesters are in fact mistaken about the environmental degradation that they perceive industry to be causing. In this article, I will not address this question, other than to note that a similar association of protest with environmental damage is made in much of the pollution havens literature in economics.2

Second, while most studies of pollution havens have taken aggregate statistics to be the relevant data in the determination of what drives siting decisions, I take a more phenomenological approach by examining the actual statements of firm representatives. The cases I examine provide examples of firms indicating that headaches over environmental protest are a primary factor in motivating their FDI. I attempt to advance this more political and phenomenological study through an analysis of two cases int he political economy of Japan’s relations with Southeast Asia. The first case takes up the possibility that Japan’s FDI to Southeast Asia during the 1970s was motivated in part by the dsire (on the part of both firms and the Japanese state) to escape from anti-pollution protest in Japan. The second asks whether the siting of overseas industrial tree plantations (particularly plantations of the species Eucalyptus camaldeulensis) supplying the Japanese market for wood chips and paper pulp has been influenced by the environmental problems whose plantations cause. The cases present useful contrasts for the study of pollution export, varying as they do in time (the 1970s for manufacturing FDI, the 1980s and 1990s for plantation forestry), sector (manufacturing vs. forestry), and the location of protest (Japan vs. Southeast Asia). However, they are similar in that each case has seen protest against environmental problems and clear statements by firms that the desire to escape that protest was influencing their siting decisions. While the first case seems to be a fairly straightforward example of firms searching for pollution havens, the second requires more interpretation and indeed presents a somewhat counterintuitive result.


This article was originally published in Global Environmental Politics, 2(2): 20-28. © 2002 MIT Press