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 5: Resources, Rules and International Political Economy: The Politics of Development in the WTO

Kenneth C. Shadlen

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


Kenneth C. Shadlen 1. INTRODUCTION The Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations, which began in 1986 and concluded with the signing of the ‘Final Act’ in 1994, marked a watershed in the making of the international political economy. In addition to giving birth to a new international organization,1 the World Trade Organization (‘WTO’), the Uruguay Round introduced binding agreements in new areas that had previously been left out of the international trading regime. While the WTO’s predecessor organization, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (‘GATT’), addressed national policies in tariffs and non-tariff trade measures, the Uruguay Round addresses policies in a variety of ‘trade-related’ activities, such as intellectual property (‘IP’) and investment. The broadening of the international trade regime to include binding constraints in these new issue areas was fiercely resisted by many developing countries. Yet, despite their resistance to negotiating IP and investment, and the unfavourable nature of the subsequent agreements, developing countries accepted the final outcome. Developed countries’ insistence that the Uruguay Round be an all or nothing affair – a ‘single undertaking’ – meant that developing countries could not approve the Final Act, with its promises of increased access to North American and European markets, the final elimination of the onerous Multi-Fibre Arrangement,2 and the establishment of a more useful system for dispute resolution, without also accepting agreements that imposed new multilateral disciplines on IP and investment (along with other areas, such as services and subsidies and so on). 1 Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO, opened...

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