Julio Faundez & Celine Tan eds. International Economic Law, Globalization and Developing Countries. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2010 (504 pages); $199.95 hardcover edition.
The expansion of international law over the last 30 years may cause some to think that developing countries are better off than they were previously. After all, is not one of the main purposes of international law (and law in general) to protect the weak from the strong? That may be one of the purposes of international law, according to the authors of International Economic Law, Globalization and Developing Countries, but it has not been the result. Developing nations often have not benefited from the growth of international law, and for the very reasons you may expect:
- the interests of developing nations are inadequately represented in the international law-making process;
- powerful nations use the law as a tool to force developing countries into desired behavior;
- developing countries need more flexibility than international law allows to create economic policies that spur growth.
So what needs to happen in the international legal arena to improve the economic status of developing countries? It’s no surprise that the answers provided by the authors are either 1) it’s complicated, or 2) we don’t know yet.
This book is an excellent choice for academic libraries collecting in international law. International development and globalization are hot topics that will become ever more popular as the world’s economies become increasingly intertwined. A broad variety of topics are touched upon, since economic growth relates to many aspects of development, making the book appealing to many researchers of international law. Topics include the environment, biotechnology and biofuel, food and fuel supplies, aid/development assistance, international financial regulation, intellectual property, competition law and policy, human rights, trade, international investment, transnational corporations, and taxation. The extensive bibliography is a good starting point for students new to research in these fields.
Because of its breadth and context, this book would be a good choice for a course textbook in conjunction with other readings–although admittedly a very expensive option. The authors consider both broad questions (e.g., what is the purpose of international financial regulation?) and more narrow (e.g., should a development criterion be considered as a jurisdictional requirement in investment arbitration cases?). The focus, however, leans toward describing the historical background and analyzing the current situation.
The chapters are timely and balanced. Several authors consider the impact of the recent global financial crisis on developing nations. There is no emphasis on the individual experiences of specific countries. I found Mary E. Footer’s chapter, “Biotechnology and the International Regulation of Food and Fuel Security in Developing Countries,” to be particularly important, as it considers the urgent and growing need for food throughout the world and the lack of access of developing countries to biotechnology.
Some of the authors point out challenges and roadblocks to improvement, concluding with, “The situation is complex and needs more research and/or more experimentation.” These conclusions, while frustrating, are sound. The diversity of interests among international actors—which range from individuals to corporations, from nations to international organizations—requires delicate balancing, and policing the relationships of these parties is inherently fraught with difficulty. International actors need to work together and consider developing nations holistically, and involve developing nations in the process. Mechanisms need to be established to give developing nations a greater voice.
Iantha Haight is Research Attorney and Lecturer in Law at Cornell University Law Library in Ithaca, New York.