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Multiple Regimes, Issue Linkage and International Cooperation: Exploring the Role of the WTO

41 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2005  

Oren Perez

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law


The article questions the validity of the emerging linkage narrative. The notion of linkage seeks to replace the themes of conflict and animosity, which have dominated the trade and . . . debate, with a tale of synergy and mutual-support. While the idea that linking distinct regimes, such as the WTO and Multilateral Environmental Agreements, may yield synergistic benefits is intuitively compelling, it also suffers, the article argues, from various blind spots which make its actual feasibility doubtful. The article exposes these blind spots by situating the linkage hypothesis - as it is articulated in the economic and game theory literature - in a richer theoretical framework which recognizes the institutional complexities and ideological divergences that characterize the contemporary international system. It is argued that realizing the synergic potential of cross-regime linkage requires policy makers to develop pragmatic responses to these blind-spots. The article then moves from the theoretical plane into the muddy waters of WTO jurisprudence, discussing how the idea of linkage - in the context of the trade and environment debate - is dealt with under the WTO rulebook and the Doha negotiation processes (commenting also on the results of the Hong Kong summit). The article concludes by outlining several institutional mechanisms which should facilitate the creation of stable and mutually reinforcing links between the trade and environment domains. While the article focuses on the trade-environment nexus, its theoretical insights are relevant to other domains as well.

Keywords: Issue linkage, cross-regime synergy, regime collision, trade and environment conflict

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Perez, Oren, Multiple Regimes, Issue Linkage and International Cooperation: Exploring the Role of the WTO. University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law, Spring 2006. Available at SSRN:

Oren Perez (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Faculty of Law
Ramat Gan, 52900
+972-3-5317798 (Phone)
+972-3-5351856 (Fax)

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