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Back to BasicsState Power in a Contemporary World$
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Martha Finnemore and Judith Goldstein

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199970087

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199970087.001.0001

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International Trade Law as a Mechanism for State Transformation

International Trade Law as a Mechanism for State Transformation

(p.177) 9 International Trade Law as a Mechanism for State Transformation
Back to Basics

Richard H. Steinberg

Oxford University Press

Contrary to “structural realist” arguments about the irrelevance of international law, this chapter offers a realist argument in which international law may be consequential and offers empirical support for that claim: it shows how power shapes international law, which in turn is a mechanism for state transformation. The body of contemporary international trade law that emerged in the 1945–1995 period pressured not just for the abandonment of certain national policies in other countries, but also for shifts of authority within states, the creation of new kinds of state capacities, new processes of policy making, and development of some dimensions of rule of law—all contradictions of Westphalian sovereignty. These pressures have molded the state in developing countries to conform to the Western industrialized trading-state model. Of course, the extent to which particular states have converged on the Western, industrialized model has varied. GATT/WTO rules have not been applied evenly across countries: richer developing countries have been pressured more intensely than poorer ones to abide by the rules, while the poorest countries (with their small markets) have been largely ignored over the past half century. The result has been that many of the world’s poorer countries have been left behind, and others are experiencing deformation (i.e., defective formation) of the trading state.

Keywords:   realism, power, international trade, international law

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