An Introduction to Trade and National Security: New Concepts of National Security in a Time of Economic Uncertainty

12 Pages Posted: 18 May 2020

Date Written: April 30, 2020


Within the context of enhanced rhetoric about the need for national security measures to protect domestic economic interests, the Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law hosted a Symposium on National Security and Trade Law in which speakers raised questions as to not only what is meant by national security today, but also the significance of invoking national security exceptions in trade. This Introduction provides an overview of issues discussed as well as some reflections on the use of the national security exception in trade during a time when nations are moving away from international cooperation towards unilateralism and facing global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. With the World Trade Organization’s recent panel decision, Russia—Measures Concerning Traffic in Transit, the international community received some guidance as to the limited use of this exception under GATT Article XXI and the need for good faith by nations invoking it, but larger questions remained as to its applicability in the context of economic insecurity and in the context of broader global challenges such as cybersecurity and climate change. Furthermore, with the current dysfunction of the Appellate Body of the WTO, there is no central adjudicatory body to address these issues in a systematic fashion, leaving it up to the nations or ad hoc adjudicatory processes to decide, rendering the multilateral trade framework an even more fragmented system. New ways of imagining the role of trade in the context of global and economic crises are needed, as well as more resilient institutional frameworks that can adapt to future forms of insecurity and allow for varied, constructive forms of dialogue among nations.

Keywords: trade, national security, economic law, federalism, administrative law, COVID-19, pandemics, climate change, cybersecurity, separation of powers

Suggested Citation

Trujillo, Elizabeth, An Introduction to Trade and National Security: New Concepts of National Security in a Time of Economic Uncertainty (April 30, 2020). 30 Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law 211 (2020), U of Houston Law Center No. 2020-A-5, Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Trujillo (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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