Between Law and Diplomacy: The Social Contexts of Disputing at the World Trade Organization

Between Law and Diplomacy: The Social Contexts of Disputing at the World Trade Organization

Between Law and Diplomacy: The Social Contexts of Disputing at the World Trade Organization

Between Law and Diplomacy: The Social Contexts of Disputing at the World Trade Organization

Synopsis

Between Law and Diplomacy crafts an insider's look at international trade disputes at one of the most important institutions in the global economy- the World Trade Organization. The WTO regulates the global rules for trade, and- unique among international organizations- it provides a legalized process for litigation between countries over trade grievances.

Drawing on interviews with trade lawyers, ambassadors, trade delegations, and trade jurists, this book details how trade has become increasingly legalized and the implications of that for power relations between rich and poor countries. Joseph Conti looks closely at who uses the system to initiate and pursue disputes, who settles and on what terms, and the relative disconnect between pursuing a dispute and what a country gains through efforts to gain compliance with WTO dictates. Through this inside look at the process of disputing, Conti provides fresh perspective on how and why the law authorizes the use of specific resources and tactics in the ever unfolding struggle for control in the global economy.

Excerpt

The kings and queens of capitalism who gathered for their 2009 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at the mountain retreat of Davos, Switzerland, faced dire global economic conditions. What had begun as the bursting of a speculative bubble in the U.S. housing market had devolved into a global financial contagion. Some of the world's largest financial institutions had failed, and many more teetered on insolvency. Iceland's coalition government failed under recessionary stress, and other governments faced austerity programs or massive deficit spending. The governments of Sweden, Germany, France, India, China, Brazil, and other countries took steps to protect sensitive industries such as automobiles and steel. And the United States was considering a second massive economic rescue package in six months that included “buy American” provisions, mandating the government to prefer domestic sources in the purchase of key materials and goods. Economic nationalism, like a zombie returned from the dead, stalked the global economy and threatened descent into a global trade war.

The exuberance over the most recent age of globalization had vanished. The beginning of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 had appeared to inaugurate an era of private global economic action, where the important questions seemed to hinge on whether states could continue to govern a world dominated by mobile global capital. Business leaders and scholars pondered the end of the nation-state, and offered new models of private governance for a borderless world. While the attacks of September 11, 2001, reminded many of the continued salience of borders, it was only with the global economy teetering on collapse and talk of a new Great Depression that the role of states in constructing and maintaining globalization resurfaced and came again into focus. In the words of Klaus Schwab, founder of the Davos meeting, “[T]he pendulum has swung, and the power has moved back to governments.”

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