In her guest lecture entitled 'International Economic Law And A Fairer Global Order: Back To National Sovereignty?' Alessandra Arcuri (Erasmus University Rotterdam) will discuss the rekindled interest in the nation state and national sovereignty in the context of the international economic order.
There was a time when national sovereignty was out of fashion. In the nineties, international lawyers were engaged in imaging the global order beyond the nation state. Theories to make this order possible were proliferating: from Global Administrative Law to global constitutionalism ((Kingsbury et. al. 2005, Cassese et. al. 2008; Klabbers and Peters 2009). International Economic Law (IEL) played an important role in the journey towards the global order. Our markets could be integrated through (an almost brand new) organization, the World Trade Organization. The WTO was created and endowed with a powerful set of new agreements, promoting the harmonization of health and safety law (thorough the SPS Agreement) and technical regulation (TBT Agreement). The WTO also included a new agreement to establish (relatively uniform) IPRs regimes worldwide (the TRIPS Agreement). Global technocracy was alive and kicking, back then.
But then came Brexit and Trump; conservatives across the Atlantic hailed nationalism. The ascent of right-wing populism may be of concern to many international lawyers. At the same time, the answer to the current legitimacy crisis of the system of international economic law and governance offered by progressives resort also on entrusting the nation state with more political space – a space which allegedly has been unduly constrained by the global economic order. Before Brexit and Trump, Dani Rodrik, with his powerful economic theories, rehashed the importance of national sovereignty (The Globalization Paradox, 2011) and continues to do today: ‘So, I accept the nation-state as a source of disintegration for the global economy.’ (Straight Talks on Trade, at 25). Rodrik’s argument is echoed by progressive economists and international legal scholars who started to reconsider national sovereignty, as the necessary paradigm to fix our broken world order. The gist of the progressive story is straightforward. Without national sovereignty, environmental, industrial, and redistributive policies cannot be realized. We went too far with global institutions, eroding national sovereignty, which is the core of democratic liberal regimes.
This article questions this new consensus, emerging across the political spectrum, with one important qualifier. Some of the arguments articulated to defend domestic policy space are salient. The nation State continues to be a key site of democracy, and global institutions of economic governance should come to terms with their relation and impact on democracy. Yet, generalizing the idea that an expansion of State sovereignty is going to achieve a fairer economic order is at best reductivist and at worst dangerous.
Alessandra Arcuri is Professor of Inclusive Global Law and Governance at the Department of International and European Union Law, Erasmus School of Law, Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research focuses on international economic law and the relationship with human rights and environmental law, as well as global governance of risks and the emergence of global technocracy. She has published extensively in the field of risk regulation, international economic law and law and economics. Besides teaching regularly at the Erasmus School of Law, she has taught courses in several universities, including at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund University, Sweden, at the African Universities in Lomè, Togo, at the Luiss Guido Carli University, Rome, and at the University of Siena, Italy and at the Link Campus University in Rome. She has also lived and held positions in Florence at the European University Institute (Jean Monnet Fellow), New York, New York University (Hauser Global Research Fellow), Hamburg, Hamburg University (Marie Curie). Professor Arcuri is Co-Chair of the Young Erasmus Academy, Member of the Erasmus Institute of Public Knowledge and Member of the Erasmus Initiative on Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity.