Kent Law School Professor Donatella Alessandrini has been awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship worth more than £162,000 for a unique research project analysing the role of world trade law in the generation and distribution of economic rewards between and within countries.
The one-year project ‘A Reverse Robin Hood? Analysing the effects of world trade law on the transnational distribution of economic value’, will offer the first sustained legal analysis of the World Trade Organisation’s contribution to the proliferation of Global Value Chains (GVCs) and to the unequal distribution of the economic value along the chains.
Drawing on socio-legal studies, world system theories and feminist economics, the project will explore how trade law brings GVCs into being, helping to create and distribute economic rewards transnationally.
Professor Alessandrini said: ‘The manufacture of products with inputs sourced from around the world dates back centuries. However, the pace, range and intensity of interactions in so-called ‘Global Value Chains’ is changing rapidly, with significant consequences for the people and companies involved. The law of the WTO has played a vital, yet hitherto unexplored, role in this process.’
Given the increasingly polarized political climate surrounding debates about trade liberalization, Professor Alessandrini emphasises a pressing need for research that can provide new ground for thinking about the relationship between global trade and socio-economic inequalities. She said: ‘The international public debate is stuck between two incompatible positions. On the one hand, trade is seen as an engine of growth, job creation, higher wages and better working conditions, with international institutions promoting further liberalisation. On the other, trade is considered the source of job destruction, wage depression and socio-economic inequalities, with nationalist movements calling for the withdrawal from multilateral fora such as the WTO, and for the pursuit of competitive interests along nationalistic lines. The project presents a fresh approach to multilateral trade law, one that makes the well-being of people its central premise by paying attention to their social reproductive labour, in particular the unremunerated activities that reproduce the workforce’.
The project will run from September 2019 to September 2020.
Professor Alessandrini’s research interests lie at the intersection of law and political economy, with a particular interest in development studies, critical trade and development literature, feminist political economy and political theory. Her book, Value Making in International Economic Law and Regulation (Routledge, 2016) was shortlisted for the Hart-Socio-Legal Book Prize in 2017. Her forthcoming book Law and Development: A Connected Approach (Bloomsbury, 2020), is co-authored with Professor Amanda Perry-Kessaris, Dr Luis Eslava and Professor Kate Bedford (Birmingham).