The relation between international trade and environmental and social issues has deep historical roots, having been manifest ever since the first industrial revolution. Ironically, the expansion of industrial activities marked, besides the exit from economic backwardness, the commencement of an inexorable war of men against nature. Concomitantly industrialization laid the groundwork for an explosive increase in international trade, which made the latter responsible for increasing environment degradation and social rights infringement. The removal of trade barriers in the first decades after the Second World War as well as the subsequent regulation induced by globalization rendered the bad effects of man’s activity upon nature even more conspicuous. Yet somewhat paradoxically, for all the harm inflicted upon the environment so far, international trade now seems to be an efficient vehicle by which dirty production still prevailing in many countries of the world could be curtailed. The paper is intended to explore, from historical perspective, how environmental issues have come to be entangled with international trade and how serious the problem is.