01 Mar 2016, SNIS Working Paper

From Rule-takers to Rule-makers? Patterns of Adaptation, Contestation and Initiative Among Emerging Powers in the World Trade Regime

SNIS Working Paper by Sandra Lavenex and Omar Serrano (University of Geneva)


This paper looks comparatively at four emerging markets (Brazil, China, India and Mexico) and at their insertion (adaptation/contestation) within existing trade-rules in the framework of the PostWashington consensus (PWC). A theoretical framework is proposed that links the analysis of international processes of rule diffusion with the domestic processes creating either demand for or contestation to these rules. This framework adopts a sectoral approach in order to highlight variation across different rules of the global economy in countries' positioning in the global trade regime. Our preliminary findings suggest that overall, emerging economies insert quite smoothly into the liberal trade order that others designed. Although contrary developmentalist tendencies persist, "two-level games" often circumvent cleavages within ruling elites. In most cases, emerging countries have taken up existing rules, sometimes implementing them in creative ways, and have started promoting these rules themselves. In those cases, where we find attempts at the creation of alternative rules, mainly in the field of intellectual property rights and, to some extent, service-trade related labour mobility, the conjuncture international codification and pressure by influential domestic interest groups benefiting from alternative approaches seem to have triggered the transition towards international rule-making. For these efforts to be successful however, we find that the development of regulatory capacity is of crucial importance. 

related links