Discussion paper

DP12620 21st Century Trade Agreements and the Owl of Minerva

The post Second World War liberal trade order has been a driver of global economic growth and rising average per capita incomes. This order confronts increasing opposition, reflecting concerns about adjustment costs and distributional effects of globalization, and the ability to pursue national policy goals. At the same time the development of complex production relations distributed across many countries calls for cooperation on a variety of regulatory policies. Contrary to what is argued by opponents of globalization, this does not imply one size fits all rules that constitute a threat to national sovereignty and democratic legitimation. There remains an important ‘traditional’ integration agenda that centers on rule-making by major trading powers on policies that generate negative international spillovers. But the core challenge for the political economy of 21st Century trade agreements is to support regulatory cooperation to better govern international production and address the non-pecuniary externalities associated with greater economic integration.


Nelson, D (2018), ‘DP12620 21st Century Trade Agreements and the Owl of Minerva‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 12620. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp12620