Abstract

The motivating idea for this project is to explore the range of Non-Trade Concerns (NTCs) that may conflict with international economic rules with a specific focus on how China can play a decisive role in these matters. If, on the one hand, this volume looks at the tensions between trade and non-trade values through the Chinese experience, on the other, it contextualizes this analysis within the broader framework of public international law. Public international law appears highly fragmented, as different treaties and rules, which often express different values, increasingly overlap. Although the goal of multilateral trade agreements and that of the treaties and institutions promoting different values do not inherently conflict, the norms adopted to achieve them might come into conflict, and, in practice, tensions do exist. In particular, norms with distinct objectives – such as sustainable development, environmental protection, public health, product safety, food security, consumer protection, the right to food, and the right to water – might affect trade patterns, or, conversely, changes in trade flows influence and possibly jeopardize the realization of such norms. Tensions do exist not only between each state’s conflicting obligations, but among states as well, since their priorities differ considerably. With regard to NTCs, developing countries do not have the same approach as developed ones. Public opinion and policy-makers in industrialized nations fear that a further liberalization of international trade may undermine or jeopardize policies and measures protecting a variety of non-trade values and react by increasingly resorting to trade restrictions. On the other hand, developing countries and, even more so, the least-developed ones have more pressing concerns to address, and tend to look at many of the trade measures introduced by developed countries to address NTCs with distrust if not with resistance or dissent, because they suspect such measures often hide protectionist goals. Moreover, developing countries see these measures as an attempt by developed countries to impose their social, ethical, or cultural values and preferences. The key challenge is finding ways to satisfy the right of developed nations to grant social values the degree of protection they consider appropriate, while minimizing the negative effects in terms of market distortion for their trading partners. Prior to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), many cautioned that its integration would not only be long and difficult, but possibly damaging to the Organization itself as well as its Members. In view of preventing this outcome, some experts decided to tackle the challenge of integrating China in the world trading system by focusing on the country’s market access concessions, tariff reductions, and liberalization requirements. A second group of scholars placed more emphasis on transparency issues instead, such as legal and administrative policies that China should adopt to ensure equitable and efficient resolution of trade disputes. Per contra, the issue of the potential influence of China’s WTO accession on NTCs has rarely been addressed in a comprehensive manner. Interestingly, though, the country’s influence in this area is now becoming more and more evident in the geopolitical context, considering the impact that China has had not only at the WTO but in other international fora as well, often in combination with the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and other developing countries.
Full Paper
Paolo Davide Farah
Founder, President and Director

Summary

The motivating idea for this project is to explore the range of Non-Trade Concerns (NTCs) that may conflict with international economic rules with a specific focus on how China can play a decisive role in these matters. If, on the one hand, this volume looks at the tensions between trade and non-trade values through the Chinese experience, on the other, it contextualizes this analysis within the broader framework of public international law. Public international law appears highly fragmented, as different treaties and rules, which often express different values, increasingly overlap. Although the goal of multilateral trade agreements and that of the treaties and institutions promoting different values do not inherently conflict, the norms adopted to achieve them might come into conflict, and, in practice, tensions do exist. In particular, norms with distinct objectives – such as sustainable development, environmental protection, public health, product safety, food security, consumer protection, the right to food, and the right to water – might affect trade patterns, or, conversely, changes in trade flows influence and possibly jeopardize the realization of such norms. Tensions do exist not only between each state’s conflicting obligations, but among states as well, since their priorities differ considerably. With regard to NTCs, developing countries do not have the same approach as developed ones. Public opinion and policy-makers in industrialized nations fear that a further liberalization of international trade may undermine or jeopardize policies and measures protecting a variety of non-trade values and react by increasingly resorting to trade restrictions. On the other hand, developing countries and, even more so, the least-developed ones have more pressing concerns to address, and tend to look at many of the trade measures introduced by developed countries to address NTCs with distrust if not with resistance or dissent, because they suspect such measures often hide protectionist goals. Moreover, developing countries see these measures as an attempt by developed countries to impose their social, ethical, or cultural values and preferences. The key challenge is finding ways to satisfy the right of developed nations to grant social values the degree of protection they consider appropriate, while minimizing the negative effects in terms of market distortion for their trading partners. Prior to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), many cautioned that its integration would not only be long and difficult, but possibly damaging to the Organization itself as well as its Members. In view of preventing this outcome, some experts decided to tackle the challenge of integrating China in the world trading system by focusing on the country’s market access concessions, tariff reductions, and liberalization requirements. A second group of scholars placed more emphasis on transparency issues instead, such as legal and administrative policies that China should adopt to ensure equitable and efficient resolution of trade disputes. Per contra, the issue of the potential influence of China’s WTO accession on NTCs has rarely been addressed in a comprehensive manner. Interestingly, though, the country’s influence in this area is now becoming more and more evident in the geopolitical context, considering the impact that China has had not only at the WTO but in other international fora as well, often in combination with the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and other developing countries.

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The growth in green energy investments worldwide is an important reality and rising trends are to be expected in the future. When designing the proper policy agenda for renewable energy investments, we must take into consideration the legal, regulatory and political frameworks in both developing and developed countries. gLAWcal aims at analyzing national approaches on the matter, combining scientific, social and economic considerations. At the same time, it wishes to develop partnerships among European and non-European institutions, so as to deliver an integrated approach on sustainable energy investments, combining global and local perspectives.
The need to prevent the abuse of intellectual property rights by right holders or the resort to practices which unreasonably restrain trade or adversely affect the international transfer of technology are topical issues that affects international relations. It is crucial for developing countries to achieve a substantive degree of IPR protection, not only for the promotion of creativity and innovation, but also for the maximization of technology transfer from developed countries. gLAWcal examines IPR regimes and their impact on competition with the objective of providing a better understanding of the competition-dimension of IP rights. Intellectual property rights are also extremely crucial to sustainable development in manifold ways, from the protection of traditional knowledge and cultural products, to access to essential medicines. Our organization focuses on the policy frameworks and institutions shaping debate and policy development in this sector.
In the last fifteen years, all around the world there has been a tendency to put much hope in the rise of civil society, its emergence being welcomed as a sign of progress towards a more democratic system. Many places in the world are today laboratories for change thanks to bottom-up movements supported by civil society organizations. By looking at contentious politics and how they converge and interact with institutional politics, we can better understand what directions a country’s political system and its governance is taking. gLAWcal supports collective forms of actions aimed at the creation of better societies, on many social issues, and in various geographical areas.
Improvements in people’s economic wellbeing have increased citizen demands for a cleaner environment. As societies undergo the transition to industrial development and modernity, their citizens begin to concern themselves with needs and wants beyond the material, including the protection of the environment. However, growing levels of environmental consciousness and awareness are often not matched by proper environmental legislation enforcement at the local level. gLAWcal looks at environmental rights developments in developing countries, and aims at delivering policy advices and capacity building support in areas where law implementation is lacking. With this purpose, our organization seeks to improve environmental protection not only for the benefit of the populations directly affected, but also for the sake of the entire planet.
Globalization, and the consequent international exchange of goods, services, cultures, ideas, has brought increased wealth for many on the one hand, while exerting pressure on core societal values both in developed and developing countries on the other hand. Public opinion and policy makers have warned against the threat posed by international trade and liberalization to policies and measures meant to protect the so-called non-trade concerns (NTC), such as environmental protection, sustainable development, good governance, cultural rights, labour rights, public health, social welfare, national security, food safety, access to knowledge, consumer interests and animal welfare.When trying to protect these issues, developed countries have put into place trade measures that have encountered resistance or dissent in developing countries, being perceived as protectionist actions or as an attempt by the importing countries to impose their social, ethical and cultural values on exporting countries.The challenge of integrating Non-Trade Concerns embodies the willingness to overcome national egoisms and embrace universally a number of fundamental values, creating an ethical and juridical platform to win over cultural differences and issues of national sovereignty. gLAWcal’s research aims at identifying ways to protect NTC within international economic law. By shedding new light on developing countries’ trends towards inclusion of NTC in the domestic and international arena, gLAWcal provides a comprehensive perspective on law enforcement, creating a bridge between the international and the domestic realities.

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