Fairness in the World Economy

Fairness in the World Economy

US Perspectives on International Trade Relations

Americo Beviglia Zampetti

In an international context, fairness is particularly important, since only a system which is perceived by its participants as fair can command acceptance and compliance. The main focus of this study is to investigate the development of the notion of fairness in US trade policy and law as well as the impact this notion has on international trade discussions and rule-making, and especially on the formation of the multilateral trade regime.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

Americo Beviglia Zampetti

Subjects: economics and finance, international economics, politics and public policy, international relations


The fairness idea has strongly influenced the US trade policy discourse, as well as the adoption and implementation of specific trade policies, and it has had a distinctive effect on the construction of the multilateral trading system and its evolution. While the object of continued controversy, and often used instrumentally and rhetorically to cover other, sometime conflicting, policy objectives, and while encircled – some would say supported, others undermined – by exceptions in rule design and application, fairness has played and continues to play a key role in policy- and rule-making. The notion of fairness prevailing in the USA has been an important guiding principle in its trade policy action since the inception of the Republic. It has been based on equality of treatment, reciprocity, and no free-riding, and ultimately on market competition as its reference model. In the light of the impact it has had on the formation and subsequent development of the multilateral trade regime, fairness can be considered one of the regime’s constitutive rules.1 Indeed, it seems possible to argue that there is no trade or exchange (of goods and services) as a social practice without synallagmatic consideration, and there is no trade agreement without a reciprocal and mutually advantageous exchange of concessions and favours between the parties. In this sense, equality of treatment, reciprocity, and no free-riding make up the regime itself.2 In addition, fairness needs to be afforded to domestic groups that may lose out as a result of international trade and trade agreements (the ‘no-injury to...

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