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Cite as: (2005) 79(7) LIJ, p. 80

In keeping with the theme of this month’s Special Issue, reviews cover several aspects of international law.

The World Trade Organization

Mitsuo Matsushita, Thomas Schoenbaum and Petros Mavroidis, The World Trade Organization: Law, practice and policy, 2004, Oxford University Press, pb $135.

Twenty years ago, it was difficult to find commentaries on international trade law. Now, following an avalanche of World Trade Organization (WTO) books and articles, the difficulty is picking out the most reliable and readable ones.

The World Trade Organization has been written by three renowned experts on WTO law. The quality of analysis and writing is superb. It is a reliable first point of reference for almost every area of WTO law. In some areas, such as the law of WTO remedies, it provides an original and unique analysis. For those interested in a sample, free extracts from the book are available at

Some readers, particularly newcomers to the WTO, may find this book somewhat daunting as introductory reading material. Furthermore, it does not provide a detailed explanation of the economic theory of free trade, which is an essential background to understanding the WTO. But for those familiar with the basics, the book has few rivals.

It covers WTO law in a familiar pattern, moving from the history of the WTO to its institutional structure, to its substantive law. The bulk of the book covers the substantive law, such as tariffs, quotas, technical barriers to trade, the most-favored-nation and national treatment principles, safeguards, trade in services, trade remedies and intellectual property. The authors devote chapters to the interfaces between trade/environment and trade/developing countries. There are also chapters on issues that are likely to become major parts of WTO substantive law, such as investment and competition.

This book is nevertheless more than a technical reference. The authors do not shrink from arguing policy points, and take particular issue with what they see as uninformed public protests against the WTO regime. They are advocates for free trade and the WTO, and their book is richer and more readable as a result.

The final chapter is particularly interesting. It describes the challenges facing the WTO in the future, such as the need to improve internal decision making, to involve the interests of civil society and to better serve the needs of developing countries.

The World Trade Organization is essential reading for lawyers with a professional interest in the WTO. It is also an ideal text for students wanting an advanced knowledge of WTO law.

Daniel Lovric
Commonwealth Office of Parliamentary Counsel

Public International Law (2nd edn)

Sam Blay, Ryszard Piotrowicz and Martin Tsamenyi, Public International Law: An Australian perspective (2nd edn), 2005, Oxford University Press, pb $79.95.

The first thing that strikes you when you scan the contents pages of this book is the impressive line up of contributors. It is a compilation of “All Stars” of public international lawyers, including Australia’s leading international law professors. All the contributors are well-known and respected experts in their areas.

What is also impressive is the breadth of the subject matter. The book not only covers the conventional international law areas such as the use of force, the interaction between international law and domestic law, the sources of international law and state responsibility, but also areas such as the law of the sea, human rights and the peaceful settlement of disputes involving international law.

International law varies from country to country. While the basic principles of international law do not change in each country, the focus on the subject nature of the law does. That is why a public international law book from an Australian perspective is far more relevant for Australians. Accordingly, the book focuses on topics such as the law of the sea, international environmental law, refugees and the international law in relation to Antarctica. In some general international law textbooks these topics are not mentioned, or only briefly.

The first edition of this book was released in 1997. Eight years is an eternity in most areas of domestic law. Historically, not so in public international law. However, international law is going through significant changes. Even in public international law, eight years is now too long. Another innovation in the second edition are the references to Internet websites for further information or updated reading.

Each topic, which could be a book unto itself, is kept brief. The whole book is just over 400 pages. However, with brevity come sacrifices. The book is mainly descriptive. While there are full citations for the primary source material, there is no real analysis, no footnotes and the bibliography for each chapter is brief. I would like to have found more on immunities and international corporate responsibility but the contents must stop somewhere.

Obviously, the book is aimed at those with a limited working knowledge in international law. Given that most lawyers and members of the public have a limited exposure to international law, this book provides a good balance. However, as a reference text it has limited value other than general background reading. Nevertheless, it would be a useful addition to the bookshelves of all those interested in international law.

Peter Little

Cases and Materials on International Law (6th edn)

DJ Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law (6th edn), 2004, Thomson Sweet & Maxwell, pb $108.

To someone standing in a puddle of water in Abu Ghraib prison with a cloth hood over their head and an electrode on their finger, it must be hard to believe that the norms of international law are alive and thriving.

The truth is that international law very much holds its place as an Internet and a superinformation highway just as it did decades before globalisation took root. Each day millions of actions and transactions are regulated locally by the substratum of international law: post, telecommunications, flight patterns, weather reporting, weights and measures, technical standards, and so on through the myriad facets of daily life.

Professor David Harris devotes some of the focus of his book to these daily minutiae of international law, but overall his vision is resolutely big picture. He covers such perennial topics as state immunity from prosecution for atrocities (the Pinochet case), title to territory on Earth and in outer space, jus cogens or peremptory norms of international law, use of force by states unilaterally or through the United Nations, human rights, treatment of aliens, the World Court and more.

Weighing in at 1152 pages, Harris has space to analyse the 1984 case of whether a crate sent by the Nigerian High Commission in London for onward shipping to Nigeria was, strictly speaking, “diplomatic baggage” when it lacked the “visible external marks” required by Art 27(4) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations covering “articles intended for official use”. (Its contents were the drugged Alhaji Umaru Dikko, former Minister for Transport.)

Harris provides a wealth of material in the form of case studies, treaties and conventions, judicial decisions and learned commentary. Given the vastness of the subject matter, defying even a book of this magnitude, the notes at the end of each section are invaluable for detailed follow up of the points canvassed in Harris’ overviews.

A purist might say that provenance from the UK should not matter in a textbook on international law, but of course it does. We get a taste of Australia’s colourful history at international level (e.g. Australia v France over nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean, Portugal v Australia over carving up East Timor) but it’s not enough. Nonetheless, Harris on International Law remains a profoundly useful guide to a student or practitioner in this fascinating arena.

David Smith
Legal Consultant, Un Development Programme, Jakarta

Arbitration in China: A practical guide

Arbitration In China: A practical guide, 2004, Thomson Sweet & Maxwell Asia, 2 vols, hb $785.

This book, in two volumes, is another tour de force which follows hot on the heels of a sister work, Arbitration in Hong Kong: A practical guide. Both works follow the same format – a dazzling array of editors and authors and a two-volume set. Volume 1 contains text and Volume 2 comprises documents (legislation, conventions and rules).

The book is the product of many hands, or minds. Among the extensive number of editors and authors are to be found some of the leading China experts in law and arbitration including Jerome Cohen, one of the earliest western experts on China; the ubiquitous Neil Kaplan; Wang Sheng Chang, vice-chairman of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission; Michael Moser, eminent lawyer, arbitrator and counsel and Christopher To, Secretary-General of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. Many of the international law firms are represented by chapter authors.

Volume 1 commences with a number of broad overview chapters including Arbitration and China; History and Structure; Legal Framework of Arbitration; Arbitral Institutions; Main Features of Arbitration in China; and Domestic and Foreign-Related Arbitrations.

A number of technical issues are tackled in chapters dealing with conflict of laws and the arbitration agreement. A large part dealing with procedure comprises chapters on commencing the arbitration, interim measures, the award, setting aside awards and enforcement issues.

Following this, there are a number of specialist chapters devoted to construction arbitration, intellectual property and main name arbitration, maritime arbitration, labour arbitration, investment-related disputes, joint ventures, insurance arbitration, financial disputes arbitration and securities arbitration. There are also chapters on arbitration in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Volume 2 comprises an extensive compendium of legislation, judicial interpretations, rules and conventions and other documents.

The section on judicial interpretations does not comprise decided cases – although there is one decided case in the compendium – but rather judicial notifications and letters issued by the People’s Supreme Court. These make for interesting reading.

There is a vast amount of information contained in these two volumes. I cannot imagine that anyone will read them from cover to cover. But the book is an outstanding reference work which is highly recommended.

Michael Pryles
President, Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration


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