A few weeks ago, I mentioned some discussion by NZ trade minister Tim Groser of sovereignty and international law. Here's a quote: "The whole point of international law is to put limits around countries' sovereignty on the basis of negotiated understandings."
In a recent speech (read the whole thing, it's very good), he had more to say on the subject, focusing on trade agreements:
The whole point of TPP and the WTO is to put some reasonable limitations on that sovereignty around principles and policies that we know work and are mutually beneficial. For the most part, the limitations will be moderate, sensible and largely about binding in existing policy settings.
I don't often hear people (especially government ministers!) talk about this in an analytical way, which is why I keep highlighting it. I think it's pretty clear that international trade agreements do limit sovereignty to some extent. As Groser puts it, these agreements "put some reasonable limitations" on sovereignty based on "principles and policies that we know work and are mutually beneficial." As a general matter, I think that is exactly right. At the same time, I do wonder whether, in practice, we have been drawing the lines in the right places. And although there has been discussion of sovereignty, it has sometimes been more emotional than analytical.
There is a news report today that Groser is interested in the WTO DG job. I have no idea who is best suited to lead the WTO, in terms of achieving negotiating breakthroughs. But for my blogging purposes, finding a DG who says interesting things about difficult and controversial issues is important, and in that regard I think Groser would be a great successor to Pascal Lamy, who has been excellent himself!