Reflecting on ‘Linkage’: Cognitive and Institutional Change in The International Trading System
Since the creation of the World Trade Organisation, the international trading system has lived through a decade of sustained and vocal public criticism. International trade lawyers have made significant efforts to engage, evaluate and respond to these critiques. This article assesses the adequacy of these responses, focusing on the so-called ‘trade and’ debate – or ‘trade linkage’ debate – in international trade law. While this debate has produced valuable insights, it tends to legitimate and reproduce precisely those aspects of the trade regime which it purports to contest. Drawing on the insights of economic history, an alternative mode of scholarship is proposed – at once historical, critical, constructivist and institutionalist – to augment the current literature in the ‘trade and’ debate. Concrete lines of enquiry are proposed which, if followed, would help international trade lawyers to respond more productively and with greater legitimacy to contemporary public critiques of the international trading order.
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