What role has China got in fostering Non-Trade Concerns #NTCs at international level?

In this detailed essay, Professor Paolo Farah examines and assesses the historical origins, development, current role and functions of Non-Trade Concerns (both internationally, and domestically, with reference to China), and their global significance for international trade law, from a variety of perspectives. In doing so, he particularly focuses his attention on the Chinese legal system and reasoning on Non-Trade Concerns, offering a timely and critical picture of this complex problem. As a start, Professor Farah situates Non-Trade Concerns (NTCs) in their historical and political background, highlighting the socio-economic and – broadly speaking - cultural reasons behind their steady influence in international trade adjudications and reforms. Here, the major un-expected and unintended consequences of neo-liberalism and capitalistic mode of production (such as resource depletion, pollution, global heat) are critically evaluated, and used as a tool to describe NTCs (such as right to food, water, public health, safe labor environment, and so on) in terms of their function: balancing the excesses of globalization. In particular, the WTO is taken as a key international institution affected by such turn in international law. Indeed, the right approach to be adopted is not opposing the global power that international organizations undoubtedly possess, but rather to suggest concrete and feasible reforms – and in this context NTCs can express all their potential. China’s legal model is then examined. Why China? Basically, for two reasons. Firstly, because it is at a crossroad between the right to development and the need to bring millions of people out of poverty. Secondly, because China is able to represent a “model” for all other similar developing countries. Here it is stressed how China has been trying for long to balance its commercial power with its cultural background, by emphasising certain “Asian values” (hence the phrase, used to identify the political-economic system of many South-East Asian countries, of “capitalism with Asian characteristics”). Here the crucial question is: Could this kind of discourse be now reconceptualised at international level? Furthermore, the actual role of NTCs in WTO multilateral system is evaluated. China, once again, is taken as a case study, and especially its legal reasoning regarding the interplay between environment, health and trade. Here, many concrete legal cases are considered: (I) United States-Superfund, (II) Thailand – Cigarettes, and (III) Canada – Herring Salmon, and other significant disputes. In the following chapters, the case of public health in WTO decision-making activity and the restriction of trade openness on cultural products on the basis of “public morals” is thoroughly assessed. In the conclusion, the Author takes a positive view that the WTO will continue on the path towards sustainable development.