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Greg Shaffer, Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law

  • When: January 20, 2021, 12–1:30 pm
  • Where: Zoom: To register, contact Sophie Kofman at

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Emerging Powers and The World Trading System

This abstract is for Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of my book Emerging Powers and the World Trading System: The Past and Future of International Economic Law, which is scheduled for a May 2021 release by Cambridge University Press. The book develops the concept of legal capacity and shows how emerging powers developed it to challenge U.S. and E.U. dominance of the global trade law system. The book thus explains the following paradox. Political scientists argue that victorious after World War II and the Cold War, the United States and its allies largely wrote the rules for international trade and investment. As a result, the United States could rule the global economy through rules. Yet, twenty-five years after the WTO’s creation, it was the United States that became the great disrupter. It was the United States that neutered trade dispute settlement and threatened to withdraw from the organization. Paradoxically, China, India, Brazil, and other emerging economies became stakeholders and (at times) defenders of economic globalization and the rules regulating it, even while they too have taken nationalist turns. How did this come to be? How did the emerging powers invest in trade law to defend their interests? What has this meant for their own internal economic governance? And what does it mean for the future of the trade legal order?

These chapters provide a legal explanation of the paradox, contending that structural changes alone do not explain shifts in the transnational legal ordering of trade. The structural changes manifested themselves through emerging powers’ development and deployment of trade-related legal capacity. Legal capacity was a critical part of the larger story because it was the medium through which structural economic change became expressed in institutional terms. Brazil’s, India’s, and China’s development of trade law capacity translated these structural changes into institutional change.

Photo and bio courtesy of University of California, Irvine School of Law.

Professor Greg Shaffer writes theoretically and empirically on international economic law and law and globalization. His publications include seven books and over one hundred articles and book chapters. The work is cross-disciplinary, addressing such topics as transnational legal ordering, legal realism, hard and soft law, comparative institutional analysis, public-private networks in international trade, the rise of China and other emerging economies, and the ways trade and investment law implicate domestic regulation and social and distributive policies.

He previously was Melvin C. Steen Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, Wing-Tat Lee Chair at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, and Professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he also directed two university research centers on World Affairs and the Global Economy (WAGE) and the European Union. He received his B.A., magna cum laude, from Dartmouth College and his J.D., with distinction, from Stanford Law School. He practiced law in Paris for seven years for Coudert Frères and Bredin Prat, where he was a member of the Paris bar.

Professor Shaffer has served as Vice President of the American Society of International Law (2014-2016), where he also served as member of the Executive Council, member of the Executive Committee, representative to the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), and Chair of the International Economic Law Group.

Professor Shaffer is on the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law, the Journal of International Economic Law, AJIL Unbound, and on the Advisory Board of the Journal of Transnational Environmental Law. He is founding Board member of the Society of International Economic Law, served as Chair of the AALS Section on Economic Globalization and Governance, and founding coordinator of the Law and Society Association Collaborative Research Network on Transnational and Global Legal Ordering.

He is a recipient of multiple U.S. National Science Foundation awards, was a Shimizu Visiting Professor at London School of Economics, a Fernand Braudel Fellow at the European University Institute, a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in Rome, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Bar Foundation. He has given invited lectures in over 25 countries.

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