Trade Policy and International Legal Development
Chapter 3: Unilateral Trade Regulation and the United Nations Charter Principles
3. Unilateral trade regulation and the United Nations Charter principles With the UN Charter’s definitive outlawing of unilateral uses of military force, unilateral trade regulations – including economic sanctions – have taken the place of war as the legally legitimate measures of last resort in unilaterally ‘influencing’ state behavior.1 In the words of one author, ‘[i]n situations where military force is seen as an “over reaction” but doing nothing runs the risk of conveying tacit approval, [economic] sanctions have typically been the choice of policy makers. Given the unique place that sanctions occupy as a tool of foreign policy their use is not likely to end’.2 Yet, as states continue to use trade regulations as policy instruments – and as the results of such trade restricting programs become known – their legitimacy as legal tools of statecraft is coming under scrutiny. Even though the theory of sanctioning holds out the promise of influence without pain, the practical difficulties in gaining compliance through trade regulations are hard to ignore. Thus, the debate as to the status of economic sanctions in international law: for some, strategic financial pressure in the age of 1 Although aggressive uses of force have continued since the Charter was put in place, the non-aggression principle set out in Article 2 of the UN Charter has not been abandoned for lack of adherence. Indeed, most regimes which have used force against other states attempt to justify their actions as self-defence (and thus justified under Article 51 of the Charter). Contrast Thomas...
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