St. Mary's Law Journal


Kele Onyejekwe


This Article posits that the increase of tariff arrangements, like the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), is evidence of the “hardening” of a body of international trade-preference law. It contends that the law of trade preferences is widely practiced in international affairs and the developed nations which terminate all trade preferences for developing countries most likely engage in illegal conduct under international law. Classical international law principally consisted of the law between nations and an international law of trade preferences in any form was unthinkable. Thus, neither international cooperation nor a duty for developed countries to assist developing countries is recognized under classical international law doctrine. One of the developments in the call for a new international economic order is the GSP—whose overall goal is to open the doors of developed countries to developing countries’ exports of semi-manufactured and manufactured goods. This Article traces the evolution of international legal standards for development and trade preferences, outlines the history, development, and structure of the GSP, and reviews the history of special preferences. Additionally, it examines the GSP and special preference systems of the United States and the European Union (EU), respectively. It also assesses the value of the U.S. and EU schemes to developing countries, and finally, evaluates the schemes’ compliance with the international law of development. As evidenced by the United States’ adoption of trade preferences, through the increase in the number of beneficiaries and approval of these schemes by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), trade preferences for developing countries are hardening as a norm of international law.


St. Mary's University School of Law