Document Type

Popular Media

Publication Date

February 2006


Joost Pauwelyn has written an extensive and thought-provoking treatise on the interaction of norms in public international law (PIL), in particular between norms of World Trade Organization (WTO) and non-WTO norms, through a conceptual lens of “conflict.” His main argument is non-WTO norms should be able to “trump” WTO norms under certain circumstances. After framing the concept of norm conflict in PIL (Chapter 1), and defining the nature of WTO law (“reciprocal” obligations) vis-à-vis that of other branches of PIL such as human rights and international environmental law (“integral” obligations) (Chapter 2), the book unfolds its conflict thesis, including hierarchy of sources (Chapter 3), two mutually exclusive modes of norm interaction, which are accumulation and conflict (Chapter 4), conflict avoidance (Chapter 5), and conflict resolution (Chapters 6 and 7). The final Chapter attempt to apply the conflict thesis developed in previous Chapters to the specific situation of WTO dispute settlement. This review will chiefly focus on the nature, or identity, of the WTO as it is described and defined by Pauwelyn when he addresses the norm conflict between WTO rules and non-WTO rules. The review concludes that Pauwelyn's thesis of conflict resolution risks weakening the WTO system through encroaching upon the WTO's identity.