International trade agreements and national sovereignty: the case of copyright

Stream: Panel 65 - International Relations: Global Political Economy 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 9.00 am – 10.30 am


Neoliberal globalisation is often argued to have fundamentally undermined the role of the state in modern capitalist societies. As corporations and investors seek out pro-market policies wherever it can find them, states are argued to have lost their authority to deviate from a set path of neoliberal economic prescriptions. This raises fundamental questions of the ability of states to represent their citizens in the face of powerful capital. Critics have condemned the forfeiting of national sovereignty to the international economic trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which are seen guarantors of these market interests. However some scholars have rejected this narrative, arguing that the alleged strength of markets vis-à-vis states is not as historical unique or as strong as is often argued. This paper will argue that agreements such as these do indeed undermine democracy and the ability of states to represent citizens, but not because of a supremacy of ‘transnational’ capital interests. Using the example of copyright it will argue that states have standards and economic policies forced on them by powerful rival states, not capital. It will examine the copyright standards included in a series of bilateral trade agreements between the America and other states over the past two decades. Then using the case of Australia it will show how this has prevented the government from pursuing copyright reforms. Thus a democratic deficit has emerged whereby states do not fully represent the interests of their citizens, but are instead constrained by the interests of foreign powers.


Madison Cartwright (Presenter), Sydney University
Madison is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. He has previously worked as a Policy Adviser to consumer advocacy organisation CHOICE, working on areas including copyright, online rights and travel.