The First Condition of Progress? Freedom of Speech and the Limits of International Trade Law
Hebrew University of Jerusalem - International Law Forum
Holger P. Hestermeyer
King's College London - The Dickson Poon School of Law
May 5, 2013
Virginia Journal of International Law, Forthcoming
Can international trade law be utilized to promote the freedom of speech in the face of repressive censorship? Even before Google’s abrupt departure from China, associated with Chinese restrictions on speech, academics and advocates were arguing that WTO dispute settlement can be used to promote freedom of speech and access to information in China and elsewhere by targeting internet censorship as an illegal trade barrier. If this were indeed one area in which international trade law might protect a human right in the face of adverse political restrictions, it could serve as a powerful vindication of economic liberalization that is otherwise often considered to contradict or compromise human rights. Through careful analysis of the gaps between human rights and international trade law we take a skeptical perspective towards this line of thinking, arguing instead that international trade disputes relating to censorship (such as a potential "Google" case) are indifferent towards the freedom of expression and ultimately promote economic interests with little, if any, impact on restricted speech.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25
Keywords: Google, internet, WTO, human rights, censorship, freedom of speech, freedom expressionAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: May 7, 2013 ; Last revised: November 3, 2014
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