Constraining Development

Constraining Development

The Shrinking of Policy Space in the International Trade Regime

By Rachel Denae Thrasher

Anthem IGLP Rethinking Global Law and Policy Series

Anthem Frontiers of Global Political Economy and Development

This book explores the ways that trade and investment treaties constrain domestic policy making. It draws a common thread through trade- and investment-related areas to show how the promises of the current international legal regime have not come to fruition and to offer new options for countries negotiating new treaties.

Hardback, 194 Pages


July 2021

£80.00, $125.00

  • About This Book
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About This Book

There is a fundamental mismatch between the global trade rules as they govern international economic behaviour and the political economic factors influencing domestic policy making. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the multilateral trading system is in crisis. Countries are increasingly turning to bilateral and regional (and mega-regional) trade deals to push forward their trade agenda. There is far less consensus around these next-generation trade agreements which reach into every aspect of domestic policy-making. At this time, more than ever, policy-makers, treaty negotiators, and scholars and students of international law need to understand the ways in which this growing regime of international trade and investment impacts regulatory decisions. 

This book demonstrates how seemingly disparate spheres of legal theory and practice (investment incentives, patent protection, land reform, etc.) are all linked together through the lens of international trade and investment, while also offering solutions in the form of new negotiating texts and country examples as a way forward toward a new multilateral trade and investment regime. Furthermore, each chapter identifies the regulatory challenges facing countries.


"The international trade and investment architecture has been broken for decades. This bold volume charts the numerous ways in which its rules have magnified the power of northern interests and foreclosed on opportunities for human advancement by nations of the global south and east." — Ilene Grabel, Distinguished University Professor, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver, US

"Constraining Development guides the reader through a wide range of topical areas making clear the systemic impacts that trade and investment agreements have on policy space. It is a useful contribution in that it synthesizes the issues into one eminently readable volume." — Brooke Güven, Senior legal researcher at the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, US

Author Information

Rachel Denae Thrasher is Researcher and Trade Policy Coordinator at the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University.


Anthem IGLP Rethinking Global Law and Policy Series

Anthem Frontiers of Global Political Economy and Development

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; List of Abbreviations; 1. Constraining Policy Space: How Global Trade Rules Conflict with National Development Goals; 2. Modern Trade Agreements, Industrial Policy and Development Sovereignty; 3. Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, Investment Rules and Access to Medicines; 4. Land Grabs, Land Governance and International Investment Commitments; 5. Capital Flow Regulation and Trade Agreements: An Empirical Investigation; 6. The Emerging Role of International Investment Agreements in Sovereign Debt Restructuring; 7. Trade and Investment Policy for Climate Change and the Energy Transition; 8. Conclusion: A Way Forward; References; Index.


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