Integrating Trade and Human Rights in the Americas

36 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2003


This paper analyzes the relationship between the OAS Inter-American human rights system and several regional integration systems, including NAFTA, MERCOSUR and the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Broadly speaking, there are two models for the relationship between integration systems and human rights protection: the leverage model and the incorporation model. The leverage model involves making effective participation in extrinsic human rights systems a legal or political condition of integration system membership. The incorporation model focuses on the juridical interpenetration of the two systems at many levels. This paper will focus on the leverage model, as it applies or may apply to the American hemisphere. Such inquiry involves addressing two questions: first, to what extent has membership in hemispheric integration systems been used to leverage more effective human rights protection; and second, to what extent should such leverage be developed as part of the evolution of hemispheric integration. The paper concludes, first, that the existing relationship between trade and human rights in the Americas follows the linkage model, but only to a limited extent, and primarily between trade and democracy. Linking trade to formal democracy, while desirable and to some extent successful in the hemisphere as this paper will show, is not adequate to address the range of human rights challenges facing the hemisphere. In view of the fact that the OAS Inter-American system exists as a promising legal venue for human rights protection, this paper also concludes that hemispheric efforts to strengthen the relationship between trade and human rights should focus instead on linking membership in the emerging FTAA system with effective participation in the OAS system. Since the U.S. does not even participate in the OAS system, further integration between trade and human rights in this hemisphere will therefore require strategies for overcoming U.S. resistance to the OAS system.

Suggested Citation

Garcia, Frank Joseph, Integrating Trade and Human Rights in the Americas. INTERNATIONAL TRADE AND HUMAN RIGHTS: FOUNDATIONS AND CONCEPTUAL ISSUES, Frederick M. Abbott and Thomas Cottier, eds., University of Michigan Press, 2003. Available at SSRN: or

Frank Joseph Garcia (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

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