Regulatory standards in the WTO: Comparing intellectual property rights with competition policy, environmental protection, and core labor standards Journal Article uri icon



  • The negotiation of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) greatly expands the purview of the World Trade Organization (WTO) into domestic regulatory standards. This evolution immediately raises the question of whether other regulatory standards, including competition policy, environmental standards, and worker rights, should be added to the WTO agenda. Indeed, the Doha Declaration opened the door for negotiations on the environment and competition policy but not labor standards. In this paper I review the logic and evidence for this decision based on economic arguments for multilateral management of market externalities, policy coordination problems, and systemic trade issues. The review concludes that, conditional upon the protection of intellectual property rights in the WTO, a strong case may be made for including competition rules. The case is weaker for environmental regulation (if by that is meant a set of WTO rules on permissible standards) and quite weak for core labor standards.

publication date

  • July 1, 2002

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start page

  • 135

end page

  • 152


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