Sustainable Development Goals and International Trade Law: A critical analysis

Author Name NAKAGAWA Junji (Faculty Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. December 2022 22-E-116
Research Project Restructuring the international trade law system based on sustainability
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The post-WWII international trade law system, which was established and developed to liberalise international trade, is facing multiple legitimacy crises. First, the system has contributed to the globalisation of the economy but has not addressed the income disparity within and among states. Second, multinational enterprises that have proliferated under the system have violated human rights, caused environmental degradation and engaged in anti-monopoly practices. Third, the system has not provided effective means for addressing global issues such as global warming and the COVID-19 pandemic. In light of these legitimacy crises of the post-WWII international trade law system, two fundamental questions should be raised: first, whether the system’s goal of trade liberalisation is adequate and, second, whether the structure and functions of the system’s regulation of international trade are adequate as well. To answer these fundamental questions, this study suggests (1) replacing the goal of the international trade law system from trade liberalisation to sustainability or sustainable development and (2) reconstructing the structure and functions of the regulation of international trade based on the broad definition of ‘international trade law system’, which comprises not only hard law on international trade but also soft law instruments regarding international trade addressed to states and private firms.