In recent decades the liberalization of trade and other international economic activity has been accompanied by an expansion of international regulation. Indeed, a sound regulatory framework is a necessary component of such liberalization. This regulation has taken place primarily in fields designed to facilitate competition between private firms. Such regulation is thought to accomplish a number of tasks. First, it increases efficiency as competition takes place in a larger market as a result of countries liberalizing their economies. Second, it provides a common set of rules creating a fair and stable decision-making environment for companies and investors. Third, the regulatory framework can serve to mediate conflict and depoliticize trade disputes as they are channelled through an international legal structure. However, the question of which fields to regulate and how regulation should be accomplished is not simply a technical or economic matter. It is also a political question and requires some consideration of political issues.