“We didn’t start the fire”: The Exercise of Authority in NAFTA Dispute Settlement and the Nationalist Backlash

As the discourse of economic nationalism seems to have gained political momentum, international trade and investment law stand at the eye of the storm. NAFTA, in particular, has (re)emerged as a point of contention more than twenty-four years after its entry into force. The threat of withdrawal by officials from the United States of America within ongoing renegotiations indicates a deeper level of nationalist backlash fueled mostly by an anti-globalist rhetoric. The paper aims at retaking some of the main arguments leading to the current backlash against NAFTA, particularly in the area of dispute settlement under Chapter Eleven and Chapter Nineteen. The paper’s goal is to retrospectively frame NAFTA dispute settlement bodies’ decisions and awards as an exercise of International Public Authority (IPA). This analysis may yield insights on how the echoes of NAFTA-backlash can be linked to more general trends against existing models of international economic law.