Local content requirements in WTO law: between free trade and the right to development

In the international arena, there is a strong rhetoric against a type of industrial policy measure called local content requirements (LCRs). They are often characterised, especially by developed countries, as protectionist measures. However, under certain circumstances, LCRs can have a central role in a country’s development process. Indeed, both developed and developing countries use them to boost their economies.

Despite this developmental aspect of LCRs, WTO (World Trade Organization) rules restrict their use. The WTO Agreement, however, has a development dimension and WTO law is supposed to be read in light of the wider corpus of international law. The right to development, in turn, is a principle rooted in core human rights treaties, is consolidated in several instruments of soft law nature and could potentially play a role in the interpretation of WTO provisions.

In this scenario, the thesis investigates if it is possible to further a development-oriented interpretation of WTO rules affecting LCRs so that those measures that incorporate genuine development goals are not considered a violation of WTO rules.

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