Transparency and the Governance of Subsidies
American Society of International Law, Proceedings, 2016, Forthcoming
7 Pages Posted: 23 May 2016
Date Written: May 23, 2016
This essay condenses the argument made in my article with Robert Wolfe and Vinhcent Le on transparency obligations in the area of subsidies and how transparency disciplines work or might work in this area. Subsidies are important mechanisms for the provision of public goods, the correcting of market failures, and the furthering of economic development. Yet they also create transnational externalities, whether through providing advantages to certain traders or through adversely affecting global public goods. Disciplining such government support through formally binding rules is thus notoriously difficult. A focus on substantive law alone is insufficient for understanding how subsidies law develops and has effects on social understandings and practices. Discipline on subsidies depends fundamentally on the existence of fora to discuss definitions, generate information about the incidence of subsidies, and then to determine whether a particular measure fits the definition and ought to be subject to censure. In the trading system, the World Trade Organization (WTO) provides a forum regarding subsidies generally, but there are others, such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the G20, and informal networks organized by non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. The essay first looks at transparency mechanisms within the WTO governing subsidies generally, followed by those developed through other processes.
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