Reid, Emily and Steele, Jenny
Free trade: What is it good for? Globalisation, Deregulation and ‘Public Opinion’
Journal of Law and Society, 36, (1), . (doi:10.1111/j.1467-6478.2009.00454.x).
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Deliberation, particularly in its core participatory variations, is widely regarded as an essential element in legitimate and sound decision?making. The deliberative ideal has much resonance with ideas of ‘localisation’, employing the value of local and applied knowledge in resolving problems and addressing risks. Partly for this very reason, participation is also widely accepted to be of particular value in conditions of globalisation, in which the effectiveness and authority of national government is challenged. We argue that in the context of international trade, the capacity of the WTO to absorb and reflect participatory aspects of decision?making is crucial to its future legitimacy, and to characterisation of its status. Should the WTO be seen as one of the darker forces of globalisation; or as an emerging institution of global accountability? The latter characterisation depends, among other things, upon recognition that the potential deregulatory effect of the WTO is contingent, and that the liberalisation of international trade should be understood as a means to welfare enhancement, rather than a goal in its own right. As ever, deliberative solutions require the maintenance of a strong public sphere, and we therefore consider whether solutions depending upon the notion of ‘empowered consumer choice’, rather than public deliberation, are unsatisfactory responses to the deregulatory impact of international trade disputes and their outcomes.
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