Local Engagement with International Economic Law and Human Rights
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Local Engagement with International Economic Law and Human Rights

Edited by Ljiljana Biukovic and Pitman B. Potter

Providing an analysis of global regulation and the impact of international organizations on domestic laws, this collection grew out of a central objective to explore methods of domestic engagement with international trade and human rights norms, and the inherent difficulties in establishing balanced links between these two international law regimes. The common thread of the papers in this collection is a focus on the application of socio-legal normative paradigms in building knowledge and policy support for coordinating local performance with international trade and human rights standards in ways that are mutually sustaining.
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Chapter 9: Observing the small gestures: human rights vectors in the Vietnamese trade law environment

Lisa Toohey


There is a large and well-developed body of literature critiquing the role of trade regulation for its negative impacts on human rights, particularly in developing countries. In contrast, the human rights-facilitating role of trade law tends to be neglected. This chapter argues that human-rights-supporting dimensions of trade law do exist, and should be given attention and acknowledgment within the human rights literature as part of a broader mapping exercise of the interaction between the two fields. This interaction is examined through a case study of Vietnam, a developing country which has only fairly recently integrated into the international economic system. Vietnam has a complex and often problematic record of engagement with international human rights obligations, and even the very language of rights contains ambiguity and ambivalence. While not seeking to downplay the seriousness of the challenges to the universal acceptance of human rights in Vietnam, this chapter argues that it is important also to pay attention to areas in which threads of human rights discourse have successfully emerged. In the Vietnamese context, the economic sphere plays an unexpectedly significant role, with international trade obligations setting into train some positive and meaningful changes. In this way, trade law can act as a subtle but significant conduit for human rights-supportive reform that often remains invisible to the human rights community.

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