Introduction and Overview: China’s Influence on Non-Trade Concerns in International Economic Law
Paolo Davide Farah, Elena Cima (editors), China’s Influence on Non-Trade Concerns in International Economic Law, Global Law and Sustainable Development Book Series, Routledge Publishing (New-York/London), ISBN 978-1-4094-4848-8, September 2016, pp.1-9
47 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2016
Date Written: 2016
The motivating idea for this project is to explore the range of Non-Trade Concerns (NTCs) that may conflict with international economic rules with a specific focus on how China can play a decisive role in these matters. If, on the one hand, this volume looks at the tensions between trade and non-trade values through the Chinese experience, on the other, it contextualizes this analysis within the broader framework of public international law.
Public international law appears highly fragmented, as different treaties and rules, which often express different values, increasingly overlap. Although the goal of multilateral trade agreements and that of the treaties and institutions promoting different values do not inherently conflict, the norms adopted to achieve them might come into conflict, and, in practice, tensions do exist. In particular, norms with distinct objectives – such as sustainable development, environmental protection, public health, product safety, food security, consumer protection, the right to food, and the right to water – might affect trade patterns, or, conversely, changes in trade flows influence and possibly jeopardize the realization of such norms. Tensions do exist not only between each state’s conflicting obligations, but among states as well, since their priorities differ considerably. With regard to NTCs, developing countries do not have the same approach as developed ones. Public opinion and policy-makers in industrialized nations fear that a further liberalization of international trade may undermine or jeopardize policies and measures protecting a variety of non-trade values and react by increasingly resorting to trade restrictions. On the other hand, developing countries and, even more so, the least-developed ones have more pressing concerns to address, and tend to look at many of the trade measures introduced by developed countries to address NTCs with distrust if not with resistance or dissent, because they suspect such measures often hide protectionist goals. Moreover, developing countries see these measures as an attempt by developed countries to impose their social, ethical, or cultural values and preferences. The key challenge is finding ways to satisfy the right of developed nations to grant social values the degree of protection they consider appropriate, while minimizing the negative effects in terms of market distortion for their trading partners.
Prior to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), many cautioned that its integration would not only be long and difficult, but possibly damaging to the Organization itself as well as its Members. In view of preventing this outcome, some experts decided to tackle the challenge of integrating China in the world trading system by focusing on the country’s market access concessions, tariff reductions, and liberalization requirements. A second group of scholars placed more emphasis on transparency issues instead, such as legal and administrative policies that China should adopt to ensure equitable and efficient resolution of trade disputes. Per contra, the issue of the potential influence of China’s WTO accession on NTCs has rarely been addressed in a comprehensive manner. Interestingly, though, the country’s influence in this area is now becoming more and more evident in the geopolitical context, considering the impact that China has had not only at the WTO but in other international fora as well, often in combination with the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and other developing countries.
Keywords: Globalization, WTO, International Economic Law, Trade, Non-Trade Concerns, Good Governance, Human Rights, Right to Water and Food, Social and Economic Rights, Cultural Rights, Labour, Environment, Climate Change, Energy, Intellectual Property, Access to Knowledge, Health, Consumer, Sustainability
JEL Classification: Q40, Q48, Q50, Q56, Q58, Q34, Q37, Q32, Q23, Q24, Q25, Q27, K33, K32, Q17, Q18
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