Balancing Commitment and Flexibility at the WTO: Proposals for a New Safeguard Mechanism

Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Closed Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)


Duke University School of Law


This dissertation examines a central problem in any institution at domestic, regional, and international levels: the relation between commitment and flexibility. Specifically, how does one achieve an optimal balance between the two that would make the commitment credible, and at the same time flexible enough to allow parties to translate that commitment into practices? At the international level, the question concern how to best formulate the commitment in a way that would serve the need for legal security and stability, and at the same time flexible enough to be effectively binding on states that are diverse politically, economically, and socially. Intended as a thought experiment to propose a conceptual framework for a possible institutional response, this dissertation (1) selects concepts and theories of the safeguard mechanism as the foundation for an alternative and (2) uses the tension between commitment and flexibility in the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an example of the problem and how the proposed conceptual framework could be worked out. The dissertation proposed for a new WTO “universal safeguard mechanism,” alternatively through “the safeguard plus,” “the single safeguard,” and “the super safeguard” approaches. The results arrived at in the course of this work show that the proposed mechanisms help address tensions between commitment and flexibility.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

World Trade Organization, Risk management--Law and legislation