The World Trade Organization and Human Rights

The World Trade Organization and Human Rights

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Edited by Sarah Joseph, David Kinley and Jeff Waincymer

This collection of essays from leading academics examines the connection between the World Trade Organization (WTO) and human rights issues, a topic which has provoked significant debate, particularly in the decade since the collapsed WTO talks in Seattle in 1999.

Chapter 4: Globalisation and Human Rights: An Economist’s Perspective

Pranab Bardhan

Subjects: economics and finance, international economics, law - academic, human rights, international economic law, trade law, politics and public policy, human rights


Pranab Bardhan 1. INTRODUCTION As is common in most contentious public debates, different people mean different things by globalisation. Some interpret it to mean the global reach of new technology (particularly in information and communications) and capital movements, some refer to outsourcing by domestic companies of rich countries, others protest against the tentacles of corporate capitalism or US hegemony in cultural and economic matters. In this chapter I shall mainly confine myself to globalisation in its economic aspects, and that too primarily in the sense of openness to foreign trade and long-term capital flows (ignoring other aspects of economic globalisation like speculative short-term capital movements or immigration).1 Of course, the trade aspects of globalisation are very much linked to the World Trade Organisation (‘WTO’).2 I shall discuss: a) How globalisation in this sense may have affected extreme poverty in the world which is a violation of human rights; and b) Its impact on labour rights. Even without insisting on a full-scale normative framework for shaping trade and investment laws, many will agree that extreme poverty is a degradation of human dignity and that there is a basic human right to minimum subsistence (part of the ‘right to life’).3 UNESCO and several human rights Parts of the material in this chapter may be found in Pranab Bardhan, ‘The Global Economy and the Poor’, in Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee et al. (eds), Understanding Poverty (Oxford University Press, New York, 2006), 98–109. 2 The raison d’etre of the WTO is...

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