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Regulation & Governance

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Who governs international trade law regimes? Although this question has attracted much research for global regulatory regimes, very little is known about international trade law organizations which function as global legislatures. This paper focuses on hitherto invisible attributes of the inner core of global legislators - the state and non-state delegations and delegations that create global norms for private international trade law through the most prominent global trade legislature, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Based on ten years of fieldwork, extensive interviews, and unique data on delegation attendance and participation in UNCITRAL’s Working Group on Insolvency, the paper positions the empirical question of delegation attributes within broader theories of global norm-making and specifies these with respect to several hypotheses. The data show that the inner core of global trade lawmakers at UNCITRAL represents a tiny and unrepresentative subset of state and non-state actors. This disjunction between UNCITRAL’s public face, which accords with a global norm of democratic governance, and its private face, where dominant states and private interests prevail, creates potential problems of legitimacy for UNCITRAL and the probable adoption and implementation of its trade law products.