Legalization of International Economic Relations: Is Asia Unique?

Discussion Papers


by Shintaro Hamanaka

December 2017


The concept of "legalization" developed by international relations theorists in the early 2000s seems to be very useful in analyzing the development of international laws. Legalization is a particular form of institutionalization characterized by three aspects: obligation, precision, and delegation. While earlier studies tend to simply argue that Asian institutions are less legalized than their Western counterparts, such a simplistic argument may need some revisions. Because there are already many bilateral and regional agreements in Asia that attempt to facilitate economic integration, it is very timely to re-examine the state of play of legalization of Asian economic relations. There is a possibility that Asian institutions are now legalized in terms of one or two aspects of legalization, but not all.

Keywords: Legalization, International economic law, ASEAN way, Asian regionalism, Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM)
JEL classification: F15, F53, F55

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