Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Emerging powers and rule makers

A recent online symposium on emerging powers and international economic law caught my attention in the Opinio Juris Blog. Andreas Buser's book "Emerging Powers, Global Justice and International Economic Law" was being reviewed. 

Is the international trade and investment law arena being rescripted by the emergence of new power realities? Have Brazil, India, China and Russia redefined the way international law in economic activty is perceived and drafted? Have the rule takers become rule makers? Or has the change been incremental and not substantial? Has global rule making shifted from a Euro-centric, western perspective to a more fragmented, global edifice?

My thoughts on emerging powers and the global economic order are as follows:

1. Emerging powers have had varying approaches to many issues being negotiated in the trade and investment arena. These approaches have been propelled by national interest and growing influence in international economic engagement. For example, China has been open to the investor state dispute settlement mechanism partly because of the increasing trend of outward capital flow to other countries. It has become a capital exporting country now.

2. There is no unified position from these players on what the international economic rulebook should transform itself into. In fact, while there are strong coalitions of interest in negotiations amongst these groupings, there is also opposition when it comes to certain areas. Notice the divergent views on agriculture negotiations between Brazil and India in the WTO or the contrasting positions of China and India on participation in investment facilitation discussions.

3. Most of the emerging powers reiterate their faith in the multilateral, rule based system. Being engaged in one rather than radicalising and uprooting it is the mainstay of all powers.

4. While international economic law has seen coalitions of interests coalesce, geostrategic interests have thrown up new coalition partners. What influence do new geo-strategic coalitions have on a unified stand of emerging countries int he international economic order would be an interesting area of research.

5. And finally, all attempts today are of shaping international law from within. Many emerging powers seek to engage with international law for national interest as western powers did when the rules were framed. 

The issue of rule-makers and rule takers has been a long standing one in international economc law. How much of this change in power dynamics will change the nature of international economic law is the key question.

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