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Regulatory Standards in the WTO

Listed author(s):
  • Keith Maskus

    (Peterson Institute for International Economics)

The negotiation of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) greatly expands the purview of the World Trade Organization (WTO) into domestic regulatory standards. The minimum standards required in TRIPS are essentially about production processes, thereby erasing the traditional "product versus process" distinction in the trading rules. This evolution immediately raises the question of whether other regulatory and process standards, including competition policy, environmental standards, and worker rights, should be placed onto the WTO agenda. Because they evidently no longer may be excluded on the grounds of the inability of the trading system to discipline process standards, the argument must proceed on other grounds. In this paper I review the logic and evidence for such inclusion based on economic arguments for multilateral management of market externalities, policy coordination problems, and systemic trade issues. The review concludes that, conditional upon the protection of intellectual property rights in the WTO, a strong case may be made for including competition rules. The case is weaker for environmental regulation and quite weak for labor rights.

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Paper provided by Peterson Institute for International Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number WP00-1.

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Date of creation: Jan 2000
Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp00-1
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