Regional and Global Trade Agreements
Chapter 2 analyses the long-standing debate in international trade law regarding regional trade agreements (RTAs) from three major theoretical perspectives in sociological literature. The unprecedented proliferation of free trade areas and customs unions has intensified the debate among scholars and policy-makers regarding the repercussions of RTAs, and whether the World Trade Organization (WTO) legal system should promote, tolerate, or restrict the formation of RTAs. The answers affect the interpretation of existing WTO legal provisions regarding RTAs, as well as negotiations regarding future legal rules in this sphere. The chapter analyses these questions with the most influential sociological theories: the structural-functional perspective, the symbolic-interactionist approach, and the social conflict perspective. While each of the above core sociological approaches underscores certain significant aspects of the global/regional debate, the chapter concludes that the symbolic-interactionist perspective should serve as the point of departure for legal and policy-making in this sphere.
Keywords: international trade law, preferential trade arrangements, regional trade agreements, international society, sociological theories, structural-functional perspective, symbolic-interactionist approach, social conflict approach, World Trade Organization, social constructivism
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