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blog 31

New IACL research group launched: Constitutional studies of free trade and political economy

Under the direction of Prof Gonzalo Villalta Puig of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL) has convened a Research Group for the promotion of Constitutional Studies of Free Trade and Political Economy. This research group assembles an international panel of researchers to permit a comparative yet analytical approach to the study of Economic Constitutional Law.

The research agenda and activities of the group start from the premise that free trade constitutionalises the political economy of jurisdictions. Free trade is a norm that conceives the trade in goods, services, labour, and capital among or within sovereign states as a flow without government discrimination.

The establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) suggests that global systems of political economy have the constitutional norm of free trade at their foundation. The European Union (EU), for example, and other regional and sub-regional systems also have that normative foundation. It is an implicit assumption that local systems have that normative foundation too. The assumption holds true for unitary states. It also holds true for the United States of America, Commonwealth of Australia, Dominion of Canada, Republic of India, Federal Republic of Germany, Kingdom of Belgium, Federal Republic of Brazil, United Mexican States, Argentine Republic, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Malaysia, and other federal, con-federal (Swiss Confederation), quasi-federal (Kingdom of Spain), and non-unitary states.

However, unlike unitary jurisdictions, non-unitary jurisdictions rely on a constitutional guarantee of free movement of goods, services, labour and capital among their constituent states. That guarantee is not always reliable because its judicial interpretation is subject to multiple considerations: doctrinal, practical, political, economic, and other. It is, therefore, the mission of constitutional courts in non-unitary jurisdictions to reconcile their sometime contradictory jurisprudence with the constitutional norm of free trade.

The successes and the failures of that mission can assist supranational and international jurisdictions to further develop their preferential and free trade areas, customs unions, single markets, and economic and monetary unions. Conversely, the free trade jurisprudence of supranational and international jurisdictions can assist the mission of constitutional courts in non-unitary jurisdictions to further develop their political economies. Thus, the judicial interpretation of the constitutional freedom of interstate trade comprises a valuable and viable subject of analytical and comparative study.

Further to that research hypothesis, the research thesis and the subject of the research agenda and activities of the group is that the free trade jurisprudence of supranational and international jurisdictions is significant to the constitutional development of the political economy of non-unitary jurisdictions and vice versa.

The research group promotes analytical and comparative studies of the constitutional regime of the WTO as the only international jurisdiction in the area of trade and commerce, the EU, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Central American Integration System (SICA), Andean Community, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and other supranational single markets and economic and monetary unions, and the constitutions of the United States, Australia, Canada, India, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Nigeria, Malaysia, and other non-unitary markets.

Membership of the research group gives scholars the opportunity to undertake analytical and comparative research projects on Economic Constitutional Law and develop the discipline at a global level through the exchange and transfer of their collective expertise. Members then have the opportunity to collaborate with the very best scholars of Economic Constitutional Law in other jurisdictions: federal, con-federal, quasi-federal, supranational, and international.

The research group welcomes constitutional and public law scholars everywhere with a research interest in Economic Constitutional Law, International Economic Law, Trade and Commercial Law, and (Comparative) Federalism and Federal Political Systems and inter-disciplinary interests in Political Science and Economics. In that respect, the research group endeavours to work closely with the Society of International Economic Law (SIEL) and the International Association of Centers for Federal Studies (IACFS) as well as the Forum of Federations and its Global Dialogue on Federalism program.

The research group functions within but, nevertheless, autonomously of the IACL in accordance with its own rules and timetables. It endeavours to assemble at the IXth World Congress of the IACL and regularly in the meantime but otherwise maintains a permanent online dialogue as it develops new research projects: workshops, collections, surveys.


Dr Gonzalo Villalta Puig
Professor of Law
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: http://www.law.cuhk.edu.hk/people/villalta-puig-gonzalo.php

[Dr Gonzalo Villalta Puig is a Professor of Law at The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Convenor of the IACL Research Group for Constitutional Studies of Free Trade and Political Economy. A Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, he is also a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of Australia and a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. A specialist in Economic Constitutional Law, Prof Villalta Puig researches the role of constitutional courts in the constitutionalisation of free trade in non-unitary, supranational, and international jurisdictions. Prof Villalta Puig has a particular research interest in the economic constitutions of the European Union and Commonwealth of Australia and the law and practice of trade relations between the two.]