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Are COVID-19 Related Trade Restrictions WTO-Consistent?

Countries dealing with the economic and public health-related impacts of COVID-19 have adopted a markedly nationalist approach to their response. More than 80 governments have placed restrictions of some sort (with many of those being notified to the WTO Secretariat) on the export of personal protective equipment and medication necessary to treat those affected by the virus. Prominent controversies have included the Trump administration’s decision to disallow exports of N95 masks from 3M’s American plant to Canada and Latin America (which has now been partially lifted), and India’s decision to ban exports of the hydroxychloroquine drug, which has also now been rescinded in part after pressure from the US and Brazil, among others. Similar export restrictions and other measures restricting international trade in goods essential for public health and economic purposes may be put in place as the situation evolves. Bans or explicit limits on the quantity of a good which may be exported or imported are Quantitative Restrictions (QRs), covered directly by Art XI of the General Agreement on…

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The Scorecard of the Phase One Trade Agreement

  The United States President and the Chinese Vice Prime Minister signed a deal dubbed as the “Phase One Trade Agreement” (“the Agreement”) on January 15, 2020. The Agreement withholds further escalation of the on-and-off trade war, which has dragged on for over 18 months between the US and China. The Agreement will likely lay a…

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Who controls WTO dispute settlement? Reflections on the Appellate Body’s crisis from a socio-professional perspective

  Last month marked a crucial moment in the history of the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s dispute settlement system. On 10 December 2019, the terms of office of Appellate Body (AB) members Ujal Bhatia and Thomas Graham came to an end, thereby leaving the World Trade Court without the minimum complement of adjudicators necessary to carry out its…

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Living in the Shadow of Flawed Peace: How General International Law Is Implicated in the Trade War between Japan and South Korea

As the anniversary of V-J Day approaches, the legacy of World War II still casts a long shadow on its previous Pacific theatre.  Last month, an unprecedented quadripartite incident involving warplanes from, inter alia, Japan and South Korea played out in the territorial airspace of the contested Dokdo/Takeshima islands, disputed territory that was left unresolved in the…

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An International Investment Advisory Center: Beyond the WTO Model

Establishing an international investment advisory center is now a priority for many states.  UNCITRAL Working Group III has put the issue at the top of its agenda for ISDS reform.  The European Commission is considering an advisory center for its proposed Multilateral Investment Court.  The Netherlands government has commissioned a feasibility study. Thinking about an…

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