Trade, Law And The Planet - Greening The Path to Global Cooperation

A Conversation with Prof. Manjiao Chi

International Law is integral to processes of global cooperation. Is there are particular area where this relationship between law and global cooperation comes alive, that has caught your attention in recent times?

I am an international lawyer and the Centre is dedicated to global cooperation, andI think global cooperation would not really be achieved without the support of international law. Currently my research concentrates mainly on international trade, investment policies, law and sustainable development. I am consulting with a number of United Nations agencies on related topics, like the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and other investment agreements. It is a field where I believe global cooperation is needed and crucial. For example, the appellate body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is highly likely to be paralyzed by the end of the year if no new judges are appointed to it. To solve this crisis, cooperation among WTO members is quite necessary.

You have worked recently and extensively on ‘greening’ international trade. In what ways do you think these processes relate to global cooperation for mitigation of climate change?

I have been working on the idea of ‘greening’ international trade from the environmental perspective, and conceptually this extends easily to the broader concepts of climate change. I would say that studying the confluence of the two ideas- first, climate change, which is of course a major research focus at the Centre, and second, Green Trade and Investments, which has been one of my major research interests- fit well will within global cooperation research. 

Actors, decision making processes and strategies in this field are changing at a fast pace. How do you think we should deal with these challenges in the international arena?

I think, in the future, this could be dealt with in two parallel ways. First, from a legal perspective, we have to identify more environment and green-related positions from a normative point of view. We have to look for them in treaties, domestic laws and various multilateral arrangements, to see the ways in which states actually understand the issue and what they would like to do in order to promote and invest in green trade in the future. The second way, which I think is more directly linked with cooperation and governance, is to have a closer look at non-state actors.

This is important because trade and investment are done not just through governments but mostly by private companies. It is very important to ensure that the companies- especially multinational companies- are aware of the effects of climate change and the importance of environmental protection and sustainable development at large, when they engage in trade and international cooperation.

In this context, where do you see the possible contribution of a global cooperation perspective?

Global cooperation as perspective has a huge potential here, if understood in the broader sense. On one side, it should be understood within the international relations rubric of a more formal cooperation between states, which is the more common form of global cooperation today. At the same time, we also need to broaden the concept to include private actors, non-state actors like NGOs and even academics in shaping the future of global cooperation. We need to, importantly, conduct more empirical research on how we can systematically include and engage all these stakeholders in the future of global cooperation. The Centre has a broad agenda that covers these ideas quite well, and the fact that the Centre has decided to become a research-oriented institution instead of a policy think-tank will, I believe, help it deliver nuanced understanding to the many layers and combinations of international cooperation.


Interview by Mouli Banerjee