See you in Geneva? Democracy, the Rule of Law and the WTO (Working Paper 16)
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This paper is a constructivist attempt to understand a global political space where states as actors (the traditional domain of international relations theory and international law) are joined by international organizations, firms, NGOs, and others. Today we know that many supposedly private or international orders (meaning sources of order other than the central institutions of the territorial state) are engaged in the regulation of large domains of collective life in a world where the sources of power are multiple, sovereignties are overlapping, and anarchy is meaningless. The paper begins with an attempt, discussed in the first section, to sort out what the rule of law might mean in the context of the WTO, where we soon see that it can only be understood by also considering the meaning of Administrative Law. Much of the debate about rule of law depends on positivist and centralist theories of “law,” whose inadequacy for my purposes leads, in the second section, to a discussion of legal pluralism and implicit law in legal theory. These approaches offer an alternative theoretical framework that respects the role of the state while not seeing it as the only source of normativity. The third section looks directly at WTO law and dispute settlement. I tr y to show that the sources and interpretations of law in the WTO and the trading system cannot be reduced to the Dispute Settlement Body. I conclude in the fourth section with some suggestions on how a WTO rule of law could be understood as democratic.