In Search of Global Regulation
This note surveys the international governance of global business from the nineteenth century until the present day, emphasizing and explaining its fragmented nature. In the nineteenth century a core principle of international law was that the property of foreigners could not be taken without full compensation. The expropriation of foreign direct investment by the Soviet Union in 1917, shattered existing international property law, and there was no consensus on a replacement. After World War II an International Trade Organization was envisaged alongside the IMF and the World Bank as the third leg of the Bretton Woods agreement, but the U.S. Congress refused to ratify the ITO Treaty. Various attempts by the United Nations and other bodies to create codes of conduct for multinationals failed due to divergent beliefs and policies between the West and developing countries. After 1979 there was a general relaxation of national controls over multinationals, while international agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF experienced a loss of legitimacy. The note goes on to discuss multilateral and bilateral investment treaties, the impact of the global financial crisis on tightening financial regulations, international governance on the natural environment and human rights, and the impact of digitalization on global regulation.