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Michael J. Trebilcock

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 1 provides an historical context for contemporary controversies over the boundaries between free-trade and fair trade, sketching the evolution of trading patterns over the course of human history and the dramatic expansion in international trade over the past two centuries or so, precipitated initially by the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the steam engine which greatly reduced transportation costs, and much more recently by the communications revolution that has dramatically reduced the cost of transmitting information and ideas across countries. The chapter also briefly reviews the evolution of international trade theory, which emphasizes the gains from specialization, which in turn are limited only by the extent of the market, but suffers from the defect of being static in nature and insensitive to historical factors that may have shaped a country’s contemporary comparative advantage and how a country might re-shape its comparative advantage going forward.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 2 addresses the question of why countries are motivated to enter into trade agreements with other countries with which they may wish to trade, and emphasizes that in the absence of international trade agreements countries will be tempted to adopt beggar thy neighbour policies with actual or potential trading partners, potentially provoking retaliation by these partners and yielding zero-sum outcomes for all the trading partners involved. Trade agreements also provide a mechanism by which countries can manage the domestic politics surrounding trade policy by enlisting export oriented industries as a counterweight to import impacted domestic industries and by mitigating transition costs as resources gravitate from contracting to expanding industries.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 3 addresses the case for multilateral trade agreements where all the signatories agreed to trade with each other and a common set of ground rules, versus preferential or regional trade agreements which by definition treat members more favourably than nonmembers, and versus the case for special dispensations from common trade rules in the case of developing countries.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 4 addresses the scope of trade agreements, whether multilateral or preferential, and in particular arguments for and against extending the scope of such agreements beyond trade in goods to trade in services, cross-border movement of capital, and cross-border movement of people (the so-called four economic freedoms.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 5 addresses a wide range of contemporary unfair trade claims which it is often argued qualify or undermine the case for free-trade. These include currency manipulation, dumping, subsidies, abuse of intellectual property rights, national security, health and safety and environmental standards, labour standards and the protection of international human rights, restrictions on immigration, and food security.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 6 addresses the international trade implications of the current coronavirus pandemic, including export restrictions on essential medical supplies, import restrictions or subsidies designed to increase countries’ self-sufficiency in essential medical supplies, and vaccine nationalism which may restrict the availability of vaccines, especially the poorest citizens in developing countries and may in turn provoke unilateral invocation of compulsory licensing regimes with respect to vaccines under patent.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 7 addresses the contemporary US-China trade conflict-both its underlying causes and provisional attempts at resolving some of the causes of the conflict, while leaving other sources of conflict and addressed and potentially requiring future resolution either multilaterally or bilaterally, although bilateral attempts at resolving the sources of conflict risk a form of managed trade, not free-trade, and may be detrimental to the interests of a wide range of other countries not parties to such bilateral agreements.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Chapter 8 concludes the book with a review of emerging trends in international trading relations, in particular the emergence of mega-regional trading agreements in Europe, Asia, North America, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa and the potential scope for I the conflict or reconciliation with the multilateral GATT/WTO regime. In this respect, it argues for greater scope within the multilateral regime for plurilateral agreements-“ coalitions of the willing”-that are open to accession by all members on a conditional most favoured nation basis i.e. by assumption of similar obligations to those assumed by the initial signatories.

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Michael J. Trebilcock

Is Free Trade desirable? Does it primarily benefit the wealthy? And what are its impacts on individual autonomy and human dignity? These are some of the fundamental questions that acclaimed trade law expert, Michael Trebilcock, sets out to answer in this pithy and insightful journey through the past, present and future of international trade agreements and trade policy.