Chicago Journal of International Law


In the discussion that follows, Section I begins by exploring the genesis of linkage. Although its relative emphasis may be a recent development, linkage is not itself a new phenomenon, but a long-contemplated topic in the history of international trade. Section II surveys and categorizes the contemporary linkage debate from three aspects: motivation (why to link), desirability (whether to link), and issue areas (what to link). It then critiques the existing literature, arguing that representative works are either too hypothetical, unempirical, or narrowly focused on particular regulatory topics. Against the backdrop of this critique, Section III shifts the focus of the linkage debate to the tension between free trade and social regulation. Based on the view that this tension could, if left unaddressed, ultimately lead to an entropic disaster of either trade failure or regulatory failure, Section IV proposes a synergistic understanding of competing values that emphasizes, and is consistent with, the WTO's integrationist telos. Based on this synergistic vision, and within the bounds of institutional feasibility, Section IV explores a multifaceted list of options, the implications of which extend well beyond the narrow terrain of WTO activities. These options include jurisprudence, harmonization, surveillance, international standards and government networks, and interinstitutional cooperation. In a brief conclusion, I argue that the proper management of linkage will enhance the legitimacy of the global trading system as a whole.