The Death of the Trade Regime
Posted: 29 Feb 2008
Date Written: 1999
In recent years, 'trade and' issues - such as trade and labour and trade and environment - have moved from the periphery to the centre for the trade agenda. But meaningful multilateral agreement in many of these areas has proven elusive. Why are these issues so intractable? Can the trade system accommodate these new issues - or do they call into question fundamental premises of the trade regime? This article explores these issues by analysing the challenges that 'trade and' issues pose to the leading economic, game theoretic and political science understandings of the trade regime. I show how, by presenting different and oftentimes novel types of difficulties, 'trade and' issues problematize the accuracy and appropriateness of the assumptions underlying these models. But models and ideas - particularly those embedded in international institutions - often have political implications, and this article outlines some of the political consequences of the efficiency model's triumph. Finally, I argue that World Trade Organization panels risk delegitimizing WTO dispute resolution if they continue to address 'trade and' issues, and detail a strategy that panels can use to advance both the conflicting values present in 'trade and' disputes and the WTO's institutional legitimacy.
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