Journal of International Economic Law
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The creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994 has left open the question of whether we can identify a theory of its legal system. A theory should help us to better understand what WTO law is as well as what it should be. This article posits the idea that a theory can be identified if we conceive of the WTO Agreement as protecting expectations about trade, facilitating adjustment to realities encountered in trade, and promoting interdependence between economic operators. Each of these purposes is implemented under the WTO Agreement by a specific instrument. In the case of expectations it is collective obligations, in the case of realities it is individual rights, and in the case of interdependence it is a combination of the foregoing two, a lex specialis. The interaction is emblematic of a deeper division within the treaty between opposing modes of law.