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Part III Regimes and Doctrines, Ch.35 Theorizing Free Trade

Anne Orford

From: The Oxford Handbook of the Theory of International Law

Edited By: Anne Orford, Florian Hoffmann

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 24 June 2024

Regional trade — General principles of international law — Sources of international law

This chapter re-examines the history of free trade and its relationship to international law. It locates contemporary trade agreements within a larger story about the relation between the state, the market, and the social; explores why it is useful to place current trade agreements within a longer historical trajectory; offers a brief narrative of how the concept of free trade has moved across a two-hundred-year period since the late eighteenth century; and concludes that concepts such as free trade (and related concepts such as discrimination, market distortion, protection, and subsidies) are the product of political struggles over particular ways of understanding the world, justifying entitlements to resources, explaining why some people should profit from the labour of others, and legitimizing the exercise of power.

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