International Investment Law and Soft Law
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International Investment Law and Soft Law

Edited by Andrea K. Bjorklund and August Reinisch

This important book examines the development of soft law instruments in international investment law and the feasibility of a ‘codification’ of the present state of this field of international economic law.
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Chapter 7: GATT/WTO Law and International Standards: An Example of Soft Law Instruments Hardening Up?

Melaku Geboye Desta


Melaku Geboye Desta* I. INTRODUCTION The World Trade Organization (WTO) has its roots in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an international agreement that was designed to facilitate international trade in goods by progressively reducing and, in many cases, eliminating national governmental measures that are restrictive of trade, which traditionally almost always meant import-restrictive measures. The GATT/WTO system has succeeded in reducing import tariffs in particular to such low levels that non-tariff measures have now become the major remaining obstacles to international trade.1 This is a result of two interrelated developments: (1) with the reduction of tariffs, governments tend to resort to new non-tariff barriers in order to keep a certain level of protection in place,2 while (2) the successful tariff reductions also have the effect of exposing old non-tariff barriers, appropriately compared by Kahler to the ‘draining of a lake that * I wish to thank the editors of this volume, Andrea Bjorklund and August Reinisch, for their patience, understanding and encouragement throughout. I am also grateful to my colleagues in Dundee in general for taking an active part at a staff seminar where I presented the paper, and Abba Kolo, Alistair Rieu-Clarke, Moshe Hirsch, Aloysius Gng and Vitaliy Pogoretskyy for helpful comments and suggestions on the draft. All errors of course remain my own. 1 Technical barriers have long been recognized as ‘the largest category of non-tariff measures faced by exporters’. WTO, Technical Barriers to Trade: Technical Explanation, at accessed 8 October...

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