In This Issue

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Not long before EJIL’s 30th birthday, EJIL’s Scientific Advisory and Editorial Boards met to discuss which topics merited the attention of a 30th birthday symposium. Two topics received a lot of support: Democracy & International Law and Inequalities & International Law. Since there is often more truth in the concept ‘both’ rather than that of ‘either/or’, we decided to work on a Symposium on Democracy and International Law, as well as one on Inequality and International Law. The Democracy Symposium was published in volume 32:1; this volume, volume 33, opens with the International Law and Inequalities Symposium. Almost all of the articles that you will find in this Symposium were submitted in response to a call for papers – a few came in through our ordinary pipeline and were added because they fitted the topic.

The first article is a contribution by Petra Weingerl and Matjaž Tratnik, who ask whether migrant workers admitted from third countries to the EU should be treated similarly to EU national workers for the purposes of free movement of workers. The authors argue why migrant workers with long-term residence and EU national workers should be treated equally.

The section continues with an article by Luca Pasquet and Lorenzo Gradoni, who closely examine the Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas and the circumstances of its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly. The authors throw light on the grass roots of the declaration, La Vía Campesina, an immense transnational coalition of peasants. They then look critically at the law-making process that led to the adoption of the declaration and reflect on its limits as well as its potential.

In the next article, David Schneiderman seeks to restore the historic memory of the 1980s debt crisis of the decolonized world and draws salient connections to the present circumstance of international investment law. He argues that now, as in the past, states’ agendas for promoting greater economic equality tend to give way to neoliberal prescriptions for attracting foreign investments.

Johan Horst follows with an investigation into the distributional choices that are inherent in the governance of transnational financial markets. His article delves into how the International Swaps and Derivatives Association exerts its influence over the Over-The-Counter Derivatives market. Horst makes an elaborate argument on how to politicize the inherent distributional consequences of the current legal infrastructure.

In the EJIL:Debate! section, Donatella Alessandrini and Bernard Hoekman disagree on how to read Global Value Chain Development reports produced by international economic institutions. In her article, Alessandrini argues that such reports regularly claim that undertaking ‘deeper trade commitments’ is necessary for countries that wish to develop and eventually promote further social and environmental protection. But, so Alessandrini suggests, the link between such deeper commitments and the promotion of greater socio-economic equality within societies is far from certain. In fact, adopting a social reproduction lens, Alessandrini suggests that deeper commitments may end up doing more harm than good by taking away regulatory power from the state, while also ‘invisibilizing’ certain kinds of labour, such as women’s reproductive labour, informal labour and migrant labour.

Whilst agreeing on the need to review global value chains through a social reproduction lens, Hoekman, in his Reply, takes issue with how Alessandrini develops her argument for the reform of international trade law. He suggests that Global Value Chain Development reports produced by international economic institutions are less influential in shaping state behaviour than Alessandrini suggests. He further argues that many developing states have actually steered clear of ‘deeper trade agreements’, maintaining a broader regulatory sphere than normally assumed. Ultimately, while Hoekman agrees that there is indeed a problem of not assigning proper value to particular forms of labour, he argues that calls for reforming the current trade regulatory framework are premature without more empirical work.

For his part, Dimitri Van Den Meerssche zeroes in on how machine learning and data analytics reshape border control in fundamentally unequal ways. The article suggests that the technological tools of data extraction and algorithmic risk assessment not only end up reproducing existing hierarchies, but also do so in a manner that is difficult to register, let alone challenge, with our existing legal vocabulary.

In her article, Shin-yi Peng goes on to discuss the role that international economic law has played in the emergence and evolution of digital inequality. Peng argues that international economic law can be employed to oppose, and perhaps even redress, digital inequality.

In the final article, Amrita Bahri and Daria Boklan pose an important question: if provisions of international trade agreements can accommodate trade restrictive measures in order to protect non-economic interests, such as famously the preservation of endangered species, can such measures also be adopted to protect women’s economic interests? The authors argue that the existing public morality in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade should be interpreted in a gender-sensitive way so as to encompass measures taken in the interest of women’s economic empowerment. They also suggest that states can, and should, negotiate the inclusion of specific gender exceptions in their future trade agreements.

Our Roaming Charges, by Lorenzo Gradoni, combines architectural perfection and striking perspective to suggest ‘Blue Sky Thinking’, reminding us of the importance of new and original ideas in scholarship. 

For our Last Page, we return to the overall theme of inequalities with a poem by Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman, one of America’s earliest feminists. She wrote ‘The Anti-Suffragists’ in 1898, portraying in sometimes caustic tones the conservative women who opposed or cared little for women’s suffrage, describing them as ‘women uniting against womanhood’.

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