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Law and lawyers in the making of regional trade regimes: the rise and fall of legal doctrines on the international trade law and governance of South-North regionalism

Lima Sakr, Rafael (2018) Law and lawyers in the making of regional trade regimes: the rise and fall of legal doctrines on the international trade law and governance of South-North regionalism. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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My research inquires into the role of law and lawyers in global governance, trade regionalism and economic development. The central question is why contemporary regional trade agreements (RTAs) between developed and developing countries (South-North) are typically described in international law literature as the expression of a relatively uniform model of legal arrangements – when significant political and economic factors suggest otherwise. Indeed, these RTAs are homogeneously characterised as inter-state agreements devised to promote trade liberalisation. This common-sense understanding assumes lightly that free trade is the primary policy of RTA-partners. It also ignores the relevance of their economic differences and the effects of these imbalances over policy preferences and bargaining power. My doctoral thesis explains how South-North regional trade regimes came to be conceived as the expression of a single, dominant model. It focuses primarily on the work of lawyers in making and governing these RTAs. It is, accordingly, an important premise that legal thinking and practices play a pivotal role in envisaging, constructing, and managing RTA, and that this role is not well understood. It is through modes of legal governance – mainly legal doctrines and dispute settlement mechanisms – that trade policies and disputes are framed as legal issues, to which legal norms and ideas are applied, and solutions are devised. Specifically, legal doctrines on trade regionalism attempt to affect the disciplinary understanding by providing an ideal model for RTAs. Thus, legal doctrines are strategically employed to shape, at some fundamental level, the way RTAs are thought, constructed and governed under the World Trade Organisation. My thesis accounts for the rise and fall of one of the legal doctrines on the international law of South-North RTAs. It postulates that three distinct legal doctrines were produced to structure decision-making over these RTAs between 1947 and 1985. It suggests that their influence achieved its zenith in the 1970s, but was followed by a sharp decline shortly afterwards. By the late-1980s they were marginalised by the emergence of a legal doctrine, which has dominate legal expertise ever since. This thesis argues, therefore, that this new legal doctrine has empowered lawyers to shape the existing South-North trade relations. Conversely, it has also operated as a disciplinary grip, arguably preventing lawyers from engaging in devising innovative solutions for present-day problems.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2018 Rafael Lima Sakr
Library of Congress subject classification: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Supervisor: Lang, Andrew and Kleinheisterkamp, Jan

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