Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial & Commercial Law


Eric C. Chaffee


In Minilateralism: How Trade Alliances, Soft Law, and Financial Engineering Are Redefining Economic Statecraft, Professor Chris Brummer embraces the complexity of the global economic system and its regulation by exploring the emerging role and dominance of varying strands of economic collaboration and regulation that he collectively refers to as “minilateralism.” In describing the turn toward minilateralism, Brummer notes a number of key features of this new minilateral system, including a shift away from global cooperation to strategic alliances composed of the smallest group necessary to achieve a particular goal, a turn from formal treaties to informal non-binding accords and other soft law, and the willingness of governments to resort to financial engineering to achieve their goals. While doing so, Brummer’s book explores how and why this shift from multilateralism to minilateralism has occurred, and he discusses the issues associated with managing and shaping the healthy growth and development of this system. He advocates that policymakers and regulators use what he terms “smart minilateralism” to define policy objectives, choose the proper minilateral tools, and legitimize their actions by seeking the support of relevant stakeholders.

This Review engages Brummer’s theories, complicates them, and in a variety of instances challenges them. It explores whether the world is merely experiencing the fine tuning of multilateralism, rather than a shift to minilateralism; whether minilateralism is simply better documented today than it has been in the past, rather than the emerging norm; and whether minilateralism is really a new phenomenon. It also challenges Brummer to offer his readers more on how multilateral and minilateral systems interact, how minilateral legitimacy might be achieved, and what role non-governmental entities do and should play in international economic regulation. In addition, this Review suggests that in various contexts minilateralism is doomed to fail and explores the implications of that failure. Thus, in a style of academic criticism, this Review criticizes the excellent and demands an unattainable level of perfection, especially because it would require Brummer to turn his readable and fully formed text into a multi-volume treatise.