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Opportunism and the WTO: Corporations, Academics and 'Member States'


Sara A. Dillon


Suffolk University Law School

February 5, 2009

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW: THE STATE AND FUTURE OF THE DISCIPLINE, Hart Publishing, 2008
Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 09-10

Abstract:     
The objective in this Chapter will be to offer a theory of opportunism for analyzing the WTO, including a perspective on WTO scholarship and its special role in facilitating the opportunism that characterizes the WTO generally. Much scholarly writing about the WTO and its 'law', it will be argued, does far more to obscure its true nature than to reveal it.

The first and foundational form of opportunism is that of certain (private) transnational actors who provided the political impetus for the creation of the body to begin with. In particular, these are the transnational corporate interests able to enjoy enhanced profits as a result of the freer flow of goods and services worldwide. The needs of these interests were clearly reflected in the drafting of the Uruguay Round agreements, seen as a whole. A second form of opportunism is reflected in the writing of those academics who provide intellectual justification and support for the WTO; professional support of a kind required by all systems that allocate power and influence. Last, but perhaps most important, is the opportunism of the nation states (WTO 'members') that rely on the ultimately misleading state-to-state characteristic of the WTO to demonstrate strategic abilities in the course of disputes and general negotiation. In this sense, the WTO provides a stage for the acting out of national know-how.

It is the fact of the content of the basic WTO laws - and what these laws established politically - that must be our principal concern. (More simply put, what did these laws as a totality set out to achieve?) Despite the often-made claims, post-1995 'trade law' is not in fact about comparative advantage of nation states. This cannot be emphasized enough. Rather, it is about the needs of transnational business as it seeks to influence or pre-empt certain distributions of wealth and power within nation states. It is most truly 'about' mobility of manufacturing, access to inexpensive labor and favorable tax regimes, and thus about diminishing the role of organized labor and regulatory oversight within developed states. The legal events of 1995 created a system worthy of the ambitions of these key actors - transnational business, academics and nation states.

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Date posted: February 6, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Dillon, Sara A., Opportunism and the WTO: Corporations, Academics and 'Member States' (February 5, 2009). INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC LAW: THE STATE AND FUTURE OF THE DISCIPLINE, Hart Publishing, 2008; Suffolk University Law School Research Paper No. 09-10. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1338254

Contact Information

Sara A. Dillon (Contact Author)
Suffolk University Law School ( email )
120 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4977
United States
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