Chicago Journal of International Law


The global financial crisis was a challenge to three of the most promising, and seemingly effective, institutions of international law-the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the international network of regulatory agencies-and it was a challenge they failed to meet. This Article reviews the performance of these three institutions in the aftermath of the financial shocks of 2007-08 and finds that they had little to say in response. Those responses that were forthcoming were either ineffective or counterproductive, and only the IMF has emerged from the crisis with its potential burnished. The record appears to vindicate the critics of these international institutions and illustrate the primacy of politics in international crisis response. That primacy has been exemplified by the importance of the G20 in coordinating an international response to the crisis. The G20 is neither law-based nor governance-focused, but can best be characterized as a modern-day Concert of Europe, which appears to be quite unconstrained by law, and is not a regulatory network.