The birth of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and its related agreements at the close of the Uruguay Round marked a profound change in the framework of principles governing world trade. The author argues that the establishment of the WTO as a unique transnational legislature in fact produced a fully integrated trade constitution capable of constructing, universalising and enforcing substantive norms of law.
The changes in the world trading system amounted to a significant shift in power from the national to the supranational level, with the result that member states are now disposed to exercise their sovereignty collectively in those areas of commercial law that require global coordination.
The author further argues that a significant factor in the institutional reform of the international trading system was the advent of the information economy, and the resulting imperative to protect intellectual property. In this respect the work lays the foundation for an empirical understanding of the WTO constitution as a response to the logic of intellectual property law.
From a social perspective, the book explains how the collective exercise of sovereignty in the new world order reflects the emergence of a new transnational civil society in which corporations, non-governmental organisations and voluntary associations are demanding a voice in global lawmaking. In examining the limits of the emerging trade constitution and the challenges it is likely to face, the analysis concludes that to find true legitimacy, the WTO and its institutions must find ways of conforming to the democratic principles of accountability, transparency and representation.