Retooling Trade Agreements for Social Inclusion

48 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2018 Last revised: 8 Oct 2018

Gregory Shaffer

University of California, Irvine School of Law

Date Written: July 20, 2018


International trade law has been oblivious to social inclusion. Meanwhile real wages have stagnated, job insecurity increased, and income inequality widened. Although trade is not primarily to blame for these conditions, it is not wholly innocent either. International trade law plays a powerful role in fomenting the conditions under which people may thrive, implicating social equality and inclusion. This Article addresses why international trade law needs to be structured in ways that support social inclusion if society is to turn the tide against rising neo-nationalism, racism, and authoritarianism. The impacts of trade and rapid technological change on income inequality and the security of work have become politically salient issues in the United States and Europe. They have led to the rise of nativist political parties that threaten to upset the international institutional framework. The outcome could be dire. The Article shows how international economic law can and should be retooled. By doing so, it can: (i) help combat harmful tax competition, avoidance, and evasion; (ii) aid domestic social security and job retraining; (iii) support labor protection; (iv) deter social dumping; and (v) enable industrial policy experimentation for development.

Suggested Citation

Shaffer, Gregory C., Retooling Trade Agreements for Social Inclusion (July 20, 2018). University of Illinois Law Review, 2019, Forthcoming; UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2019-54. Available at SSRN:

Gregory C. Shaffer (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine School of Law ( email )

401 E. Peltason Dr.
Ste. 1000
Irvine, CA 92612
United States

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