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date: 20 July 2019

(p. v) Foreword

(p. v) Foreword

The process leading to the agreements establishing the WTO during the Uruguay Round between 1986 and 1994 involved the largest trade negotiation in history, and entailed the biggest reform of the world's trading system since the GATT was created after the end of World War II. Moreover, this promise has been largely borne out in practice, not least the practice of dispute settlement under the DSU – by far the most frequently used interstate dispute settlement system.

The scope of the WTO and its various agreements, its relative success at a turbulent and often dismal time in international relations, have given rise to a vast literature. This is usefully supplemented and synthesized here by the comprehensive treatment of ‘The Economic and Institutional Context of the World Trading System’ (Part I), ‘Substantive Law’ (Part II), and ‘Settlement of Disputes’ (Part III). But what sets this Handbook apart is its consideration of international trade law and the WTO regime against the broader background of general international law and its account of the relationship of WTO law with other international law ‘regimes’. Of particular note is its exploration of ‘Trade… The New Agenda and Linkage Issues’ (Part IV) and ‘The Wider Framework’ (Part V).

Bodansky and Lawrence's essay on the legal interaction between trade and environment, for instance, canvasses the emergence of tensions between these two fields: its undeniable conclusion is that the task of reconciling the fundamental goals of free trade and environmental protection is still a work in progress. The authors note that conflicts between the two regimes might be addressed either on a case-by-case, ad hoc manner or legislatively through multilateral negotiations, concluding that despite many proposals for a legislative solution States have preferred the former approach. They conclude that ‘case-by-case review… creates uncertainty and requires adjudicative bodies to make what are essentially policy choices… But … this is perhaps the best of an imperfect set of alternatives’.

Likewise Bartels' essay on trade and human rights affords a perceptive analysis of the interaction between these fields, advocating the adoption of policies ‘to ensure that market access commitments do not impair the ability of countries to pursue human rights obligations by undertaking human rights impact assessments, to commit to the appropriate flanking policies to respond to any identified problems, and to ensure that trade rules permit countries to adopt measures in favour of human (p. vi) rights objectives’. By these means, trade liberalization can promote human rights objectives without replication of human rights instruments and institutions.

The varied contributions in Part V locate international trade law in its wider context. For example, Boisson de Chazournes and Boutruche note the increasing engagement of the UN with economic activities within the framework of its collective security mandate, resulting in ‘a need to think about the overall international legal framework for these activities in a more coherent manner’.

The Handbook concludes with a contribution from JHH Weiler gazing into the ball of the WTO's far from crystalline future. According to Weiler ‘one can appreciate changing conditions which might hearken a changing jurisprudence’, whereby ‘[e]nlightened self-interestmaybegintomobilizeagainstprotectionismandtheWTO can be used increasingly as a tool to thwart domestic [s]pecial [i]nterests militating against the collective national interest’. That may be so – if by ‘the collective national interest’ is meant (as Weiler himself apparently means) an aggregate national interest going beyond the articulated interest of particular dominant nations or national groupings. In the meantime, the step-by-step approach envisaged by Bodansky and Lawrence and by Bartels may be the realistic way forward.

The Editors are to be commended on the production of a text that, while taking all necessary account of the form and content of the law, offers at the same time such a broad vision of international trade law within general international law and, for that matter, general public policy. It will be widely read and appreciated.

James R Crawford

Lauterpacht Centre for International Law

University of Cambridge

28 September 2008