“Trade and”: Recent Developments in Trade Policy and Scholarship – And Their Surprising Political Implications

Dunoff, Jeffrey L. | January 1, 1997

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the richly suggestive phrase “trade and.” What does it mean? Is it shorthand for new topics on the expanded trade agenda, such as “trade and environment” or “trade and intellectual property”? Does it describe new movements in legal scholarship on trade issues? How is it similar to, or different from, “law and”? Until fairly recently, most scholarship about international trade law fell within a relatively well-defined domain. The substantive focus of this traditional scholarship’ typically has been on a series of tradi- tional, core “trade” issues: tariffs, quotas, most-favored-nation treat- ment, nondiscrimination, permissible safeguards and adjustment actions, and the like.2 Most of the traditional scholarship shares a common set of assumptions rooted in classic liberal economics: that liberalized international trade permits nations and firms to exploit comparative advantages, that voluntary exchanges through trade are mutually beneficial, and that liberalized trade enhances global wel- fare. Traditional scholarship also assumes, either explicitly or implic- itly, the autonomy of international markets. This scholarship typically urges the reduction-or elimination-of government “interference,” either domestically or internationally, with “normal” commercial ac- tivity. While much trade scholarship still addresses these issues, today this form of scholarship no longer dominates the field. Indeed, trade scholars today are by necessity “trade and” scholars. That is, those who write about trade policy can hardly escape study of relationships among trade and numerous topics traditionally considered outside the trade realm, whether they be regulatory heterogeneity, environmental regulation, labor standards or competition law. These and other “trade and” topics are among the most interesting-and difficult-is- sues on the trade agenda.