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 14: From Realpolitik of International Trade to the Geneva Consensus

Shervin Majlessi

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


Shervin Majlessi1 1. INTRODUCTION This chapter comprises a commentary on presentations delivered during the Monash/Sydney Universities’ Conference on The World Trade Organisation and Human Rights: Interdisciplinary Perspectives upon which the chapters in this collection are based. In the spirit of the interdisciplinary presentations during the conference this comment focuses on developments in the area of GATT/WTO law, from realpolitik of international trade to an institutionalist one, and its connection with human rights law. The commentary is in part a variation of the fragmentation narrative presented in Andrew Lang’s chapter,2 according to which the evolution of theory and practice of the discipline of GATT/WTO law, at least until very recently, happened outside what should have been its natural course (that is, in the context of an international economic law or international trade law,3 which in turn would be a branch of international law). I propose, therefore, that a different approach is needed to address the conflict between trade and human rights. It is submitted that Pascal Lamy’s proposed Geneva Consensus creates some space for that different approach based on a different theory of international economic relations.4 1 The views expressed herein are those of the author, and cannot be attributed to the United Nations. 2 See Chapter 7. 3 Already the different names of this field of law demonstrate some of the confusion in study of the subject which goes beyond mere questions of semantics. We sometimes refer to international economic law and sometimes to international trade law when...

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