Soft or Hard Law

Effective Implementation of Uniform Sea Transport Rules through the World Trade Organization Framework

In: International Organizations Law Review
Lijun Zhao Ph.D., wtoand Maritime Law, Bangor University, United Kingdom,

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Historically, international regimes regulating maritime transport have aimed to develop uniform rules. However, these rules are relatively static and have been implemented differently based on different national understandings in a de-centralised, State-based manner. This article argues that greater global uniformity in maritime transport rules could be achieved through the framework of the World Trade Organization (‘wto’). The wto could update these rules dynamically, and could also enforce them. A wto-based negotiating forum could generate substantive, uniform seaborne cargo rules in two ways. Through a selective referral approach, it could incorporate the existing rules — including the un-administered rules — within the wto framework. It could also develop new uniform rules. The wto also provides international communities with a quasi-judicial procedure — the wto dispute settlement mechanism (‘dsm’) — which could also be used to protect and promote the global uniformity of seaborne cargo rules. Such an approach could further reduce divergent interpretations of uniform transport rules by providing a centralised system for the implementation of those rules.

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