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Human Rights and Trade: Inconsistent Application of Treaty Law in the United States

42 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2008  

Constance de la Vega

University of San Francisco School of Law

Date Written: June, 23 2008


Over the past sixty years a dichotomy has developed in the United States' involvement in international agreements, subjecting treaties based on economic concerns to a different ratification mechanism than those relating to human rights abuses. That dichotomy has resulted from actions by all three branches of the federal government that increasingly place greater emphasis on business interests over protection of individual rights - often under the guise of federalism concerns, foreign policy preemption, and the commerce clause, which are questioned in the article. The emphasis placed on economic treaties at the expense of human rights initiatives is contributing to the deterioration of the United States' role as the promoter of human rights.

This article assesses the effect of the increasing gap between the protection of investor interests and human rights, and suggests that international human rights and trade agreements should be subject to the same procedures for ratification. It is clear in this age of globalization that human rights are important to the international community and thus an essential component of effective US foreign policy. To continue on the present path will only worsen the gap between the enforcement of economic interests and human rights and subject the United States government to increasing charges of duplicity, both domestically and internationally.

Keywords: human rights and trade, treaty law, international law, international trade law, international trade and federalism, NAFTA, executive-congressional agreements

Suggested Citation

de la Vega, Constance, Human Rights and Trade: Inconsistent Application of Treaty Law in the United States (June, 23 2008). UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2004. Available at SSRN:

Constance De la Vega (Contact Author)

University of San Francisco School of Law ( email )

2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
United States

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