Viet Nam, Human Rights and Trade: Implications of Viet Nam's Accession to the WTO

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Occasional Paper Series, Dialogue on Globalization Working Paper No. 39

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/30

45 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2008 Last revised: 11 May 2008

David Kinley

The University of Sydney Law School

Hai Thanh Nguyen

Vietnamese Institute of Human Rights, Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy

Abstract

Viet Nam has taken enormous strides over the past decade. It has re-engaged with the international community; its economy is well and truly emerging; its cities are vibrant; and its people are generally much better fed, healthier and more prosperous. International trade has increased significantly since the US lifted its trade embargo in the mid 1990s, and is now set to be further increased and liberalized following Viet Nam's accession to the WTO in January 2007. But not everyone in the country has benefited, and not everyone equally. The rural poor - of which there are still millions - women and children working in the burgeoning industrial sectors, and ethnic minority groups are all fairing less well. The connection between trade, economic development and human rights is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than with the plight of these groups. To varying extents, their fundamental human rights such as the rights to food, work, education, housing, adequate standards of living, non-discrimination, and cultural and religious freedoms are as yet inadequately protected, largely because the economic and political circumstances of these groups are less favourably affected by Viet Nam's transformation from a centrally-planned economy into a market economy with a socialist orientation. This paper analyses the interrelations of these various factors from the perspective of their impact on the protection and promotion of human rights in Viet Nam in the post-WTO accession era. In the paper we stress that trade liberalization under the WTO is a means to an end, not an end in itself, and as such we outline legal, business and political strategies that are essential, in our view, for ensuring that trade is exploited for the benefit of the comprehensive realization of all human rights, not the other way around.

Keywords: international trade law, human rights, international law, WTO, Vietnam, women's rights, workers rights, child rights, corporations, business

JEL Classification: K33, K10, K30, F14

Suggested Citation

Kinley, David and Nguyen, Hai Thanh, Viet Nam, Human Rights and Trade: Implications of Viet Nam's Accession to the WTO. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Occasional Paper Series, Dialogue on Globalization Working Paper No. 39; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/30. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1105952

David Kinley (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

Hai Thanh Nguyen

Vietnamese Institute of Human Rights, Ho Chi Minh National Political Academy ( email )

Hanoi
Vietnam

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