17 Nov 2023 Working Papers
Multilateral and Bilateral Trade Agreements at the Service of ‘Common Interest’
WTI Working Paper No. 10/2023 by Christiana Agbo-Ejeh
Common interest or community interest is a term that is frequently used in contemporary international law. Undoubtedly, there is a shift from the traditional international law concept of co-existence to cooperation. Due to a shared interest in other areas of inter-state relations and concerns, like eradication of poverty, and development, common interest has become a central focus. As a result, the international trading regime, which was integrated into the World Trade Organization, has gone beyond reciprocity to addressing issues of development in less developed countries. It is believed that common interest is addressed by two principles in the World Trade Organization—reciprocity and special and differential treatment. Common interest is also addressed in bilateral agreements, for example, the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and countries in Africa. It is maintained that reciprocity correlates with a common interest in the context of ensuring mutual benefits to all WTO Members and at the same time assisting less developed countries that are also members of the WTO. This work underscores the importance of special and differential treatment, notwithstanding its controversial origin and hortatory provisions.