From Control to Communication: Science, Philosophy and World Trade Law

29 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2010

Date Written: 2010


Science has recently become increasingly salient in various fields of international law. In particular, the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement stipulates that a regulating state must provide scientific justification for its food safety measures. Paradoxically, however, this ostensibly neutral reference to science tends to complicate treaty interpretation. It tends to take treaty interpretation beyond a conventional methodology under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which is primarily concerned with clarifying and articulating the treaty text. The two decades old transatlantic trade dispute over hormone-treated beef is a case in point. This article demonstrates that beneath the controversy between the United States and the European Union on the safety of hormone-treated beef lurks a critical hermeneutical divergence on the scope and meaning of relevant risk science, which a conventional model of international adjudication cannot fully fathom. The article is a philosophical retelling of what has been regarded largely as a legal-regulatory controversy. Informed by the philosophical hermeneutics, the article concludes that only a continuing dialogue or communication between disputing parties concerned can narrow down the hermeneutical discrepancy on risk science.

Keywords: WTO, SPS Agreement, risk science, adjudication, communication

Suggested Citation

Cho, Sungjoon, From Control to Communication: Science, Philosophy and World Trade Law (2010). Cornell International Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Sungjoon Cho (Contact Author)

Chicago Kent College of Law ( email )

565 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661-3691
United States

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