The Meaning of Free Trade Law in Four Acts

Available at SSRN:

Working Paper, temporary version: September 26, 2019

Final version to be published in: Le sens des libertés économiques de circulation / The Sense of Economic Freedoms of Movement » (collective book edited by J.-S. Bergé, G.-C. Giorgini – Larcier – coll. Droit Economie International), forthcoming (2020).


Free trade law can be approached in its contemporary form through the multilateral scene provided by the WTO or bilateral agreements, such as the recent CETA. These different conventional and institutional frameworks are intended to promote and secure international trade. Their purpose is therefore no stranger to the exercise of economic freedom of movement, even if these structures remain strongly contrasted in their substance and the ways of exercising them differ on a global scale.

What exactly these freedoms mean is potentially a concern for everyone. The ordinary citizen, the political or economic leader, the investor, the intellectual, the state, the intergovernmental organization, regional integration, the non-governmental organization, may all wonder about the direction and objectives set out in these free trade mechanisms.

The question I would like to address here is how the legal expert is able (or not) to grasp this search for meaning. What options are open to lawyers in an attempt to make their way through this eminently philosophical questioning?

This paper proposes a progressive answer in “four acts »:  Neoliberal unconsciousness (I), Fundamental and hypothetical standard  (II), The space of flows (III), Ecological Conscience  (IV).


Free trade law, WTO, CETA, Neoliberal unconsciousness, Global standard, Space of flows, Ecological Conscience