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Free Trade: What is it Good For ? Globalization, Deregulation, and 'Public Opinion'

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JournalJournal of Law and Society
DatePublished - Mar 2009
Issue number1
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)11-31
Original languageEnglish


Deliberation is an essential element in legitimate and sound decision making. The deliberative ideal has much resonance with ideas of 'localization', employing the value of local and applied knowledge. Participation is also of particular value under globalization. We argue that the capacity of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to absorb and reflect participatory aspects of decision making is crucial to its future legitimacy and status. Should the WTO be seen as one of the darker forces of globalization ? Or as an emerging institution of global accountability ? The latter depends upon recognition that the potential deregulatory effect of the WTO is contingent, and that the liberalization of international trade should enhance welfare, rather than be a goal in its own right. Deliberative solutions require a strong public sphere, and we therefore consider whether solutions based on '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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