Brigitte Stern opens the discussion by contextualising the issues to be addressed within the framework of the driving forces and subjacent philosophies and theories of globalisation and regionalisation. She introduces the governing rules, principles and prevailing institutional structures of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and their implications for all international and regional trade arrangements.

She asks the question whether the rule-based WTO system is really the answer to the need for meaningful global regulation of relations among states and other entities operating on an international level. She concludes that the system tends towards exaggerated liberalism, only peripherally mindful of its impact on social values, culture, health, the environment, and largely ignoring the distribution of the proceeds of the (international) economy.

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