The WTO legalistic approach and east asia: From the legal culture perspective

This article will discuss the most pressing challenges facing the East Asian countries in light of the WTO dispute settlement system: the differences in the legal cultures between East Asia and the West. This cultural dimension study will focus only on the resolution process. The attempt to discuss legal cultures, however, requires the use of methodologies that may be criticized as oversimplified. This article is, thus, not a comprehensive overview of the cultural study of East Asian legal systems; instead, it relies on the empirical analysis of legal phenomena. In one sense, the discussion from the cultural perspective in this article is based on case studies. Chinese societies are the main focus of the discussion, and my focus on Taiwan, China and APEC is explained, if not justified, by my personal background and by the overwhelming influence of Confucianism in this region. From a legal culture perspective, this article examines the implications of the WTO's more ruled-based dispute settlement system for East Asian countries. Part I demonstrates the interrelationship between economic globalization, culture, and law. Part II discusses three examples of how culture affects legal perceptions and identifies some aspects of legal culture approach to law common to all the East Asian and Southeast Asian countries. The third section discusses how the Western/Asian legal culture dichotomy is reflected in the legalistic and non-legalistic features of the WTO's DSU. This section also explains how the pattern of voluntary participation in GATT/WTO reflects this legal culture dichotomy. Part IV presents some strategic suggestions.
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