Karen Alter
Norhwestern University



(Friday, 27th May 2022)

Title : The legal operating system of global capitalism:

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Firms generally prefer and ask for binding and enforceable legal rules, and states often but not always provide the legal infrastructure that renders international contracts enforceable. This talk will explain the global economic regime complex as the operating system of global capitalism. International regime complexes are arrays of partially overlapping and nonhierarchical institutions and rules that include more than one international agreement or authority. There can be competition among the institutions and rules, and governments and firms may regime shift, moving from one institution or set of rules to another. Yet there can also be order and comity to avoid rule conflicts. The operating system of global capitalism includes a mix of private contracting that is domestically or internationally enforceable, inter-state contracts where diplomacy and withdrawal are the primary modes of enforcement (even if arbitration is an envisioned alternative), and a set of multilateral rules that (given the current state of the WTO’s legal system) are no longer legally enforceable. The talk will consider the public and private trade-offs associated with the different types of global economic rules. Together we will ponder the advantages and the losses that are created by a dysfunctional multilateral system for defining global economic rules.

Legal systems that we will be discussing include: The World Trade Organization, China’s Belt-Road Initiative, The New York Convention on the Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, and the Investor-Dispute Settlement system.