What happens to international institutions when expectations about their function and purpose shift? Must such institutions give way as states reconsider the settlements on which those institutions are based, or can they adapt (or be adapted) to new geopolitical realities? Or to put it most bluntly, as the geopolitical balance of power shifts, must law give way to power? At a very deep level, these are the questions animating Gregory Shaffer's "Governing the Interface of U.S.-China Trade Relations," published in the American Journal ofInternationalfaw. 1 As the ballooning rivalry between the United States and China stretches and strains institutions like the World Trade Organization (WTO), Shaffer remains committed to the idea that law can help manage interstate relationships, contain disagreements, and even maintain the peace. Adopting a pragmatic approach that takes all parties' concerns seriously, Shaffer sketches out how existing rules might be adapted, amended, or supplemented to create an "interface," a mechanism for managing expectations, airing disagreements, limiting unnecessary harm or collateral damage, and most of all, restoring trust. In an era of rising uncertainty about existing international institutions, Shaffer expresses faith in the power of international law. The participants in this symposium all share Shaffer's faith, even as they critique particular aspects of his proposal. In their common effort to find a basis for trust between the United States, China, and the rest of the world through institutions, all might be seen as part of a common project Shaffer would likely endorse.
Harlan G. Cohen,
Introduction to the Symposium on Gregory Shaffer, "Governing the Interface of U.S.-China Trade Relations"
, 116 AJIL Unbound 38
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/fac_artchop/1432