Hastings International and Comparative Law Review


During the U.S. governmental consideration of the Uruguay Round agreements creating the World Trade Organization ("WTO"), claims of "lost sovereignty" were used as a rhetorical device by numerous groups opposed to the WTO. The primary users of the rhetoric were supporters of a more protectionist trade policy, most prominently Pat Buchanan and environmental activists associated with Lori Wallach. However, the ease with which the legalistic response debunked the claim of lost sovereignty and the selective application of sovereignty rhetoric by these groups suggested that their actual concerns did not match the rhetoric. Instead, the underlying concern appears to be over loss of influence. The Buchananites and Wallachians worry that the WTO shrinks overall U.S. influence within, or control over, the international trading system, and reduces their group's influence in the U.S. policy-making process. Yet a realpolitik analysis of the WTO, buttressed by more than seven years of actual operation, confirms the original legalistic refutations of lost sovereignty in its traditional sense, and indicates that loss of influence concerns are at best greatly exaggerated.