At the Vanishing Point of Law: Rebalancing, Non-Violation Claims, and the Role of the Multilateral Trade Regime in the Trade Wars
23 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 4, 2019
What role does the multilateral trade regime have to play in the trade wars triggered by the United States under the Trump administration? This article argues that the traditional goal of dispute settlement in the WTO – the positive resolution of disputes – has become largely unattainable in the circumstances of the trade wars, but that the regime can still play a valuable role by providing a framework for the rebalancing of obligations among the participants. Using the regime in this way would defuse tensions among the participants, would ensure that the new equilibrium among them is integrated into the legal structure of the trade regime, and would provide the participants the opportunity to use the trade regime’s tools for solving disagreements at the margins, lowering the risk that the trade wars will spiral out of control. The article uses the example of non-violation claims in the context of national security measures to illustrate the potential for and benefits of re-integrating the trade wars into the multilateral trade regime. The article provides a detailed discussion of the legal justification for non-violation complaints in response to national security measures and shows how such claims provide an alternative to violation complaints that is both less confrontational and faster to adjudicate.
Keywords: World Trade Organization, dispute settlement, national security, non-violation claims, trade wars, rebalancing
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