From Rule-takers to Rule-makers: Emerging Powers in the Regulation of International Trade

When and how does increasing market power translate into regulatory power to shape the rules of international trade?


Over the past two decades, new economic powers have arisen within the world trading system. Brazil, China, India and Mexico are becoming influential players within an international regime whose core principles, rules and procedures have been shaped by others, notably the US and the European Union, prior to the formers’ ascent.

Whereas the shifts in economic power are by now well documented, we know relatively little about what large emerging economies seek from the global system and how they pursue their interests in particular in the global trade regime.

This project features a comparative research design examining the foreign economic policy behaviour of Brazil, China, India and Mexico in three contested fields of trade regulation: competition law, intellectual property rights and services-related labour mobility. These regulatory fields touch so-called “behind-the-border” issues and have far reaching implications for the role of the state in economic development.

Two of these fields flow directly from the regulatory agenda of the EU and the US – competition law and IPR – partly evoking vivid resistance and alternative approaches from countries such as Brazil and India in particular, whereas the promotion of labour mobility is a priority of the emerging countries meeting the resistance of Western powers.

In short, this project seeks to understand when and under which conditions emerging powers evolve from rule-takers to rule-makers in trade regulation, through which venues and with which implications for the substance and architecture of the international trade regime.


  • Emerging economies
  • Intellectual property
  • Competition policy
  • Migration law
  • Policy transfer


  • Economics
  • Law
  • Political science


International Organisations:

  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
  • World Trade Organization (WTO)

States & Public Collectivities:

  • OECD
  • Economics Ministry of Mexico

Relevant Countries

  • Emerging countries
  • Brazil
  • China
  • India
  • Mexico


This project, started in autumn 2012, has been completed.

Contact the project team

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Research team

Sandra Lavenex
University of Lucerne

Omar Serrano
University of Lucerne

Mira Burri
Associated Member
University of Berne

Thomas Cottier
Associated Member
University of Berne

Manfred Elsig
Associated Member
University of Berne

Simon Evenett
Associated Member
University of St. Gall

Fausto Gurrea
Associated Member

Yong Huang
Associated Member

Scott Kennedy
Associated Member
Indiana University Bloomington

Richean Li
Associated Member

Thiago Lima
Associated Member
Universidade Federal de Paraiba

Nuno Pires de Carvalho
Associated Member
World Intellectual Property Organisation