1 May 2021
Targeted Economic Sanctions and WTO Law: Examining the Adequacy of the National Security Exception
Journal article by Iryna Bogdanova in "Legal Issues of Economic Integration" Vol. 48 (2), pp. 171-200, published by Wolters Kluwer (Kluwer Law Online) (2021).
Individual states increasingly rely upon targeted economic sanctions to achieve their foreign policy goals. The legality of such unilateral sanctions remains debatable in public international law. However, their proliferation and possible negative repercussions encourage targeted states to question their legality before international tribunals, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute settlement system. Against this backdrop, the article analyses three types of recently enacted unilateral targeted sanctions. In particular, sanctions imposed on human rights grounds (‘Magnitsky-style sanctions’), those targeting perpetrators of cyber-attacks, and sanctions impacting trade in information and communications technology and services (ICTS) (e.g.,Huawei sanctions) are discussed. The subsequent analysis focuses on the possible WTO-inconsistency of these economic restrictions. Following this, the possibility to justify such sanctions under the national security exception of Article XXI(b)(iii) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is explored. The conclusion emphasizes that the national security exception cannot be used to justify all types of unilateral economic sanctions, even if these measures are introduced to address national security concerns. This conclusion not only demonstrates inevitable boundaries of the national security clause but also reinforces the general tendency of questioning the legality of unilateral economic sanctions.