In This Review

Emerging Powers and the World Trading System: The Past and Future of International Economic Law
Emerging Powers and the World Trading System: The Past and Future of International Economic Law
By Gregory Shaffer
Cambridge University Press, 2021, 250 pp.

The post–World War II global trading system was largely designed by the United States and was heavily criticized by developing countries, including Brazil, India, and (later) China, for placing unfair restraints on their economic development policies. Yet now, paradoxically, the United States has become a leading critic of the World Trade Organization, and emerging powers have become its chief defenders. As Shaffer explains, once emerging markets became major exporters, they developed an interest in maintaining and even strengthening the rules-based system. For its part, the United States, possessing a limited social safety net, resorted to import restrictions to protect workers and turned away from the WTO when it ruled against Washington. Importantly, emerging markets developed the legal capacity—the cadres of attorneys and negotiators with trade law expertise—needed to use global trade rules and procedures to their advantage. Shaffer argues for reinvigorating the WTO as a primary interface between the United States and China but also for revising WTO rules to provide more space for Beijing to pursue state capitalism and for Washington to intervene to protect workers from import shocks.