The present state of international economic law leaves much to be desired. Anchored by the multilateral General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which led to the creation of the World Trade Organization, and complemented by a vast network of bilateral and multilateral investment treaties and free trade agreements, international economic law is drawn from diffuse sources. Additionally, the WTO Dispute Settlement Body and Appellate Body, which interpret the GATT provisions, and arbitral tribunals, which interpret investment protection agreement provisions, shape the content of international economic law. However, the patchwork of treaty text and dispute settlement rulings into a body of law is unraveling.
One of the key points of departure of this book is that ‘the prevailing investment treaty based rules regime institutionalises neoliberalism, which argues for a lesser involvement of the state in the market’ (p. 19), and that ‘despite neo-liberalism’s aversion to the role of the state in economic matters, the state is responsible for the public interest and is the highest authority and a reduction in its economic functions’ (p. 19). It is on this basis that Adeleke theorises a harmonisation between the neoliberalist attitudes of international investment law on the one hand, and the public interest objectives of human rights law on the other.
This book symposium is about a new era of international investment norms in Africa. The discussion focuses on how to foster cooperation between African states and foreign investors in implementing sustainable development objectives and addressing global challenges. Several traditional investment treaties offer investors broad rights and protections that are backed by strong dispute settlement mechanisms. In the same vein, States have historically committed to non-reciprocal obligations in investment treaties that are seen as significantly limiting the policy space of states.
The hallmark of Jonathan Bashi’s masterful analysis of the uniquely multifarious and variegated processes which set Africa apart from all other regional integration theatres (the Americas, Europe, Southeast Asia) is its lucidity. His organising concept of ‘regional developmentalism through law’ as distinct from regionalism per se or regional economic integration is a genial critical and discursive move. It effectively critiques and corrects the concealed neoliberalism of integrationist discourse by 1) restoring the means-end relationship of regionalism to development, and 2) foregrounding the centrality and polyvalence of law as mechanism. For Bashi, the role of rules is not to serve markets, but to fashion, construct, and condition them.
Developmental statism differs from the R4I model insofar as the economic activities of foreign state firms, as opposed to local state firms, drive R4I dealings. This should concern policy makers because of what an externally driven agenda implies for the long-term development of host states.
Gender empowerment and trade liberalisation are mutually exclusive, and to think they form an antipodal nexus defeats the purpose of regional trade as envisaged under WTO altogether. I hope that subsequent discussions around AfCFTA will seek to promote and stimulate gender mainstreaming in the carrying out of trade facilitation amongst African countries. Indeed, infrastructural deficit will hinder the realization of AfCFTA. To obtain the benefits under AfCFTA, African countries must aggressively develop their infrastructural capabilities. Most goods are transported through roads. Good road and rail networks facilitate trade within borders and regional areas.
In this essay, I argue that the AfCFTA needs to rethink its relationship with the continental emancipatory movements. Its focus on economic integration without social-emancipatory movements undermines its central aim of creating “the Africa we want.” Its top-down approach fails to capture labor movements in Africa. Additionally, by creating yet another integration organization in Africa despite the existence of several regional and continental integration projects it cashes organizational costs that could have been spent in creating a labor-friendly integration project.