International Law Between Two Futures

Pogge, Thomas W (2014) International Law Between Two Futures. Journal of International Dispute Settlement, 5 (3). pp. 432-437. ISSN 2040-3585

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Much more than its domestic analogues, the contest over international rules and procedures is essentially confined to a small elite of agents—multinational corporations, industry associations, banks, hedge funds, billionaires—who can effectively influence the negotiating positions of the most powerful governments, foremost that of the United States. Lesser constituents are marginalized through the exclusivity and intransparency of international negotiations, the high costs of successful lobbying and the routine dismissal of moral concerns as inappropriate to the jungle of international relations.

We find the fingerprints of this global elite all over the workaday parts of our system of international rules and procedures.

Many resource-rich countries are suffering economically because their rulers are internationally recognized as entitled to borrow in the country’s name and to confer ownership rights in its natural resources, regardless of how these rulers came to power and regardless of how badly they rule. These international rules secure the flow of resources into the industrialized countries while facilitating oppression and corruption, and encouraging coups and civil wars in the developing world.

Poor countries are drained of badly needed capital and tax revenues through an international tax and financial system that enables their richer citizens to hide assets in foreign secrecy jurisdictions and enables multinational corporations to shift their profits to tax havens through trade mis-invoicing and other gimmicky transactions among subsidiaries of the same corporation.

Under the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement, the developing countries were forced to agree to grant 20-year pharmaceutical product patents on pains of being excluded from the World Trade Organization. As a result, important medicines that could be cheaply manufactured domestically are sold at prices exceeding manufacturing costs by a factor of 100 or more. The TRIPS Agreement enables the pharmaceutical, software, entertainment and agro industries to extend their …

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