• Fitting China–US Trade into WTO Trade Law—National Security and Non-Violation Mechanisms

    Justin Hughes
    Michigan State Law Review
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    During the four years of the Trump presidency, there was much Sturm und Drang over the destruction of the rules-based international trading system. That system—first as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), then as the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as hundreds of preferential trade agreements among countries—has been one of the centerpieces of the post-World War II order.1 The Trumpian tempest battered these institutions, but did not break them. Even the Trans-Pacific Partnership survived— without the United States and with a different name.2 But the institutions and norms of international trade are questioned in 2022 in a way they were not in 2000, 2010, or 2015. The received wisdom about trade no longer looks as wise as it once did. Broadly raising tariffs on Chinese imports did not produce calamity; if it produced some higher prices, the needle on the consumer price index hardly oscillated.3 The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a hard look at the balance between maximally-efficient global supply chains and national capacity for essential products.4 An international trading system that was designed to be insensitive to anything but economic efficiency now seems—to many Americans and Europeans—troublingly out of step with saving the planet’s climate, standing up for human rights in other countries, and combatting income inequality. There are already ambitious efforts to reimagine the international trading system.5 Instead of questioning whether the United States needs to get out of the WTO, we should be imagining how we can get into a new world trade order—one that builds human rights, representative democracy, income inequality, environmental protection, and the struggle against climate change into the terms of trade. If done prudently and judiciously, creating a new world trade order is a project that will probably take longer than any GATT or WTO round before.
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    4 months ago
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