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Human Rights and Capitalism

A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Globalisation

Edited by Janet Dine and Andrew Fagan

Human Rights and Capitalism brings together two important facets of the globalisation debate and examines the complex relationship between human rights, property rights and capitalist economies.
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Chapter 9: WTO Member States and the Right to Health

Paul Hunt and Simon Walker


Paul Hunt and Simon Walker*† This chapter focuses on a selection of WTO Agreements and trade issues that bear closely upon the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (‘the right to health’).1 For two reasons, its primary focus is on the position of states in relation to selected trade issues and the right to health, rather than the responsibilities under international human rights law of the WTO and its secretariat. First, the WTO is principally driven by its member states and, second, international human rights law primarily places obligations on states. Thus, given the central role of states under both international human rights law and trade law, it is more fruitful to focus on the relationship between states, the right to health and trade.2 As a point of departure, it is important to identify the normative and practical bases for analysing this relationship. At the normative level, all member states of the United Nations – which includes all members of the WTO – have ratified at least one human rights treaty. Most WTO members have ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and all but one have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which recognize the right to health. Thus, there is a normative basis for considering the promotion and protection of human rights within the context of the negotiation and implementation of trade rules within the WTO. At the...

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