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The Scope and Limits of a Public–Private Hybrid: Dispute Settlement under NAFTA Chapter 19

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Globalisation is often depicted as having led to an increase in private authority at the expense of that of the state. It is important to correctly specify the scope that private authority has achieved and the capacity of states to push back and limit that authority. This article grounds these theoretical issues in a discussion of the hybrid, public–private dispute settlement mechanism set up in the original Canada–US Free Trade Agreement (CUSTFA), and later extended into Chapter 19 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It finds that privatising the enforcement process did make a difference. Trade experts on panels saw things differently to judges and in ways that were more sympathetic to exporters. This favoured Canadian and Mexican interests. However, the arrangement lacked deep roots. It was a late-stage compromise in trade negotiations. This rendered it vulnerable to a US counterattack once panels began to rule in favour of Canadian and Mexican challenges to US trade determinations. The transfer of quasi-judicial authority to a public–private hybrid proved contingent, partly on the hegemonic state's ongoing level of comfort with the arrangement, as well as on a lack of business consensus within the United States.
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Keywords: Authority; NAFTA Chapter 19; Public-Private; Trade Disputes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: McMaster University, Hamilton,Ontario, CanadaL8S 4M4,

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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