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Transnational mercantilism and the emergent global trading order

Jean-Christophe Graz ABSTRACT It is often argued that the problems currently facing the World Trade Organization stem from an important shift in the trade agenda from tariff reduction to the harmonisation of domestic regulations considered as non tariff barriers. From this perspective, the lack of harmonisation of domestic regulations severely impairs the capacity of the WTO to fulfil its mission. This article argues, in contrast, that the underlying problems facing the contemporary trade agenda are different, and are caused by a lack of differentiation in the regulatory framework of the WTO. To substantiate this claim, a conception of transnational mercantilism is derived from recent scholarly revisions of classical mercantilism. This clarifies a continuity between the external dimension and the comprehensive pattern of social organisation involved in the political economy of international trade. This framework is used to appraise four structures upon which trade policy is predicated: the implementation of market mechanisms, the embeddedness of trade in state-society relations, the link between trade and the natural environment, and special and differential treatment for developing countries. KEYWORDS World Trade Organisation; new trade agenda; Doha development agenda; international political economy; transnational mercantilism.