Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Globalization is on the rise. The last few decades have been marked by dramatic reductions in transaction costs that have helped bring together local markets. Technological advances such as wireless telecommunications and the Internet have connected buyers and sellers of goods and services across the planet through transactions that were not even feasible, let alone cost-effective, as little as a decade ago. No less importantly, the systematic removal of regulatory barriers to international trade has facilitated economic globalization. At the forefront of international economic liberalization, the creation of the World Trade Organization ("WTO") in 1995 extended multilateral trading rules beyond trade in goods to cover transnational provision of services, protection of intellectual property rights, and technical and health-related standards. Hundreds of Regional Trade Agreements ("RTAs") that further reduce barriers are complemented by an even greater number of international investment protection agreements called Bilateral Investment Treaties ("BITs").

In the shadow of these economic developments, the same period has also witnessed the rise of transnational crime (roughly defined as serious crime whose perpetration and effects occur in more than one state) as a source of grave concern around the globe. Drug smuggling, arms trading, human trafficking, illegal sex trade, money laundering, wholesale intellectual property rights infringement- these and other illicit activities have flourished due to the advances of technology and the freer movement of goods, services, money, and people that characterize the modern world, just as legal international business transactions have flourished. There are, no doubt, direct links between technological progress and economic liberalization, on the one hand, and the growth of transnational crime and the accompanying anxiety, on the other hand. For example, illegal child pornography became easier to distribute via the Internet, and the removal of barriers to international trade in goods and the free flow of funds may have facilitated cross-border trafficking in illicit drugs.

As such, transnational crime is indeed "the dark side of globalization," and it is not surprising that national governments and law enforcement agencies worldwide have increasingly turned to international law and international cooperation to fight it, considerably augmenting the international legal field of global crime control.