WTO & Public International Law
LL.M Course 703 (cross-listed)
| 2 credit hours
Since the institution of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Understanding in 1994, WTO
jurisprudence has increasingly addressed disputes involving the interaction between trade related values and other domestic or international policy values. The various WTO instruments that are subject to the discipline of the Dispute Settlement Understanding address the relationships between international trade and other fields such as public health, the environment, intellectual property, and even public morality. The treatment of these issues in the WTO Agreements simultaneously demonstrates the linkages among these fields, and the separation of each from the others. Moreover, many of these “trade-related but not trade” policy areas are covered by other international agreements and understandings, as well as by domestic laws, and are in some cases subject to different judicial or quasi-judicial dispute resolution mechanisms, each applying its own rules of decision. Finally, even within the international trade arena, the proliferation of regional trade arrangements with their own dispute settlement mechanisms presents another
potential source of conflict with the jurisprudence of the WTO.
This state of affairs has, since about 1995, given rise to serious concerns over what has been termed the “fragmentation” of international law. Although abstract, the question of whether international law should be viewed as a “system” of law, or merely as an aggregation of rules formed principally by agreements between sovereign states, has become one of more than theoretical interest. The resolution of actual or potential conflicts between various specialized international regimes, as well as between such regimes and domestic legal regimes, has become of increasing practical importance. In many respects, WTO jurisprudence stands at the heart of these developing concerns.
This course will examine the jurisprudence of the WTO through the lens of the issue of
fragmentation. Through a close study of relevant decisions and hypothetical disputes, the course will address actual and potential regime conflict issues between the international trade regime and competing norms in the environmental, public health, and intellectual property spheres. It will also address the challenges to the integrity of general international law, and of the WTO regime itself, that are posed by the proliferation of regional trade regimes with their own dispute settlement mechanisms, and by emerging questions about the effect of WTO norms within domestic legal regimes. The course will seek to balance a case-driven approach to these issues with a consideration of the underlying theoretical questions, and will regularly return to the question of the future role of the WTO in the new world order of international law.
Recommended: Prior exposure to WTO law, or concurrent enrollment in a basic course in WTO law.
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