What is the correlation between consumerism and international trade? A China’s perspective by Professor Rossi

In his paper, Professor Rossi explores the relationships between consumerism as a global ideology and international trade practices. In his analysis, what emerges is that two closely-interlinked phenomena seem to support the idea that many legal orders have enacted a consolidated consumer law, autonomous from other legal disciplines. (a) The first is the worldwide spread of the adhesion contract model to mass transactions, that is a model of contractual relationship characterized by several parties beyond the business seller and final buyer, regardless of the nationality of either. In this scenario, through the influence of the main international trade players, such as multinational companies and their lawyers, new types of contracts are spreading. This ‘lex mercatoria’ play a major role in national legislation because of the growing interdependence between firms’ strategies and domestic economic sectors involved in those activities. Many national jurisdictions, therefore, try to restore the balance of contractual relationships to protect other interests (such as citizens’ welfare and protection of competition). (b)The second one is a global social movement, called consumerism, that “seek[s] to augment the rights and power of the buyers in relation to the sellers.” After tracing the origins of this movement, the Author goes on considering the laws and regulations adopted in different jurisdictions under the profile of consumer protection. The key question here is: how a balance can be reached between provisions aiming at protecting competition and markets and those designed to protect consumers? And more crucially, is it true that inadequate consumer protection leads to distorted competition also at international level? Indeed, in this last case, the authorities that regulate the market operate from different countries, and it is not always easy to assess whether rules aimed at consumer protection are designed to favor consumers rather than national businesses over foreign competitors. The Chinese example is emblematic. The introduction of the provisions aimed at consumer protection in China correlates to the country’s transition towards a socialist market economy. As a result, the PRC created a broad array of remedies, which encompass civil and criminal law, as well as civil, administrative, and criminal procedural law, most of which were adopted during a phase characterized by a growing attention towards Western models. Methodologically speaking, the counterbalance between consumers and businesses, as well as State enterprises, depends on China’s leading socio-economic policy. As a conclusion, as the Author points out, Chinese consumer law could be one of those areas where political rhetoric can justify certain choices by stressing the fact that those choices do not reflect the government’s will but rather the necessity to satisfy unique, widespread cultural needs.