Free Trade with Hazardous Products? The Emergence of Transnational Governance with Eroding State Government

EUI Working Paper LAW No. 2006/05

29 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2006

See all articles by Christian Joerges

Christian Joerges

University of Bremen - Faculty of Law; Hertie School of Governance

Date Written: April 2006


The historical evolution of free trade has been accompanied by a plethora of debates, concerning both its positive effects and social costs. During the last decade, the subject of these disputes has markedly changed. The main objective of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) concluded 1947, was initially the reduction of tariffs introduced by states to protect their national economy. In this respect, the agreement has been markedly successful. Since the early 1970s, however, non-tariff barriers to free trade have moved to the centre of attention. This change of focus was fostered by more intensified domestic regulation especially in the fields of health and safety, consumer and environmental protection. These concerns are of such domestic significance that they cannot simply be abandoned for the sake of free trade; however, it also is common opinion that regulations in these areas cannot be accepted, if they merely mask protectionist interests. In 1994, the international trade system adapted to this situation by transforming the GATT into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The most important reforms included an overhaul of its procedures of dispute settlement and the conclusion of special agreements concerning non-tariff barriers to free trade such as the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). These agreements aim at the balancing of their main economic objective, free trade, with domestic regulatory concerns of WTO members. This bundle of regulations has certainly furthered the emergence of transnational "governance arrangements." Such new forms of "transnational governance" have lent renewed importance to "old" legal issues: How can new forms of transnational governance be qualified legally? What can be said about their (social) acceptance and (normative) legitimacy? Can this form of governance be "constitutionalized" in such a way that law can defend or even regain its function as guarantor of and yardstick for legitimate governing?

Keywords: Governance, international regimes, legitimacy, multilevel governance, national autonomy, risk regulation, social regulation, standardisation, international trade, WTO

Suggested Citation

Joerges, Christian, Free Trade with Hazardous Products? The Emergence of Transnational Governance with Eroding State Government (April 2006). EUI Working Paper LAW No. 2006/05. Available at SSRN: or

Christian Joerges (Contact Author)

University of Bremen - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 330440
Bremen, 28334

Hertie School of Governance ( email )

Friedrichstra├če 180
Berlin, 10117

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