Panama and the WTO: new constitutionalism of trade policy and global tax governance
Eskelinen, T., & Ylönen, M. (2017). Panama and the WTO: new constitutionalism of trade policy and global tax governance. Review of International Political Economy, 24(4), 629-656. https://doi.org/10.1080/09692290.2017.1321569
Published inReview of International Political Economy
© the Authors, 2017. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License.
Tax havens and tax flight have lately received increasing attention, while interest toward multilateral trade policies has somewhat diminished. We argue that more attention needs to be paid exactly to the interrelations between trade and tax policies. Drawing from two case studies on Panama’s trade disputes, we show how World Trade Organization (WTO) rules can be used both to resist attempts to sanction secrecy structures and to promote measures against tax flight. The theory of new constitutionalism can help to explain how trade treaties can ‘lock in’ tax policies. However, our case studies show that trade policy not only ‘locks in’ democratic policy-making, but also enables tax havens to use their commercialized sovereignty to resists anti-secrecy measures. What is being ‘locked in’ are the policy tools, not necessarily the policies. The changing relationship between trade and tax policies can also create new and unexpected tools for tackling tax evasion, underlining the importance of epistemic arbitrage in the context of new constitutionalism. In principle, political actors with sufficient technical and juridical knowledge can shape global tax governance to various directions regardless of their formal position in the world political hierarchies. This should be taken into account when trade treaties are being negotiated or revised. ...
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