Bilateralism Versus Multilateralism in International Economic Law: Applying the Principle of Subsidiarity
29 Pages Posted: 19 Oct 2009
Date Written: October 16, 2009
This paper proposes a different perspective on the problem of bilateralism versus multilateralism than what has been offered in the literature to date. It proposes to look at the problem through the prism of the Subsidiarity principle. While this principle has mainly been used in the context of allocation of authority between various levels of government in federal or quasi-federal systems of government, I propose to use it in the analysis of the various layers of international economic law and in relation to the choice of bilateral, regional or plurilateral regimes over multilateral ones. Such an analysis can provide both a normative criterion as well as an explanatory tool in relation to the reality of booming bilateralism. The objective of the paper is to develop parameters analogous to those used in the federalist discourse but adapted to the subject matter of international economic law. These parameters incorporate both the efficiency and the political/ethical rationales of the Subsidiarity principle. In particular, it dictates that actions should be taken on less centralistic levels, closer to the point of action, where measures more precisely targeted and more closely attuned to the needs of the parties involved may be taken. Through this perspective, just as well-functioning provincial and local governments may serve as building blocks for a leaner, better functioning and more democratic central government, bilateral and regional regimes may serve as important building blocks for a leaner, better functioning and more democratic multilateral organization.
Keywords: Bilateralism, Regionalism, Multilateralism, Subsidiarity
JEL Classification: F13, F15, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation