Mirages of International Justice

Mirages of International Justice

The Elusive Pursuit of a Transnational Legal Order

Matthew Parish

Since the end of the Cold War there has been an explosion of international courts and tribunals that sit apart from domestic legal systems, yet they are often woefully inadequate for their stated purposes. This book explores common problems across these courts, and applies a constructivist theory of international relations to explain their operation.

Chapter 6: Self-spite in the Regulation of International Trade

Matthew Parish

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, human rights, international economic law, trade law, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights, international politics


In Chapter 3, we saw that states are in general reluctant to submit themselves to a system of compulsory dispute resolution between one another. For powerful states, there is little to be gained: a third party adjudicatory regime can never achieve as attractive an outcome as unilateral exercise of that state’s military or economic power. For all states, there may be value in the political theatre of such a court: but where strong state interests are involved, states will inevitably ignore rulings that go against them. There is simply too much at stake in one’s domestic politics to abide by the rulings of a court that has no effective sanction for non-compliance. Thus international courts are weak, and optional. In this chapter, we address an apparent counterexample to this logic. Apart from being a forum for trade negotiations, the World Trade Organisation is primarily an international court, to which all 153 of its members are required to submit. It exists to resolve disputes between sovereigns relating to government regulation of international trade. Given our analysis so far, why do states agree to such a regime? The answer is that the system is not what it appears. To understand how international trade became the subject of legal regulation, a short detour into the economic history of the subject is appropriate. THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE Mercantilism, an economic theory that emphasises the importance of exports over imports, and the value of trade surpluses, was prevalent in Europe through to the...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information