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Trade Sanctions and Human Rights - Past, Present, and Future

44 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2004 Last revised: 20 Jul 2012

Carlos Manuel Vazquez

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2003


The relationship between the international law of trade and the international law of human rights has commanded an increasing amount of scholarly attention in the past few years, perhaps spurred by the well-known events at Seattle in 1999. This article offers some reflections on this relationship, focusing on the permissibility under international law of imposing trade sanctions against nations that commit violations of international human rights. Part I begins with some reflections on the historical relationship between these two bodies of law. Part I also considers why the human rights community appears to feel threatened by the international trade system, and not the other way around. Part II considers whether, under current trade norms, trade concessions may be suspended in response to human rights violations. Part III turns to the normative question: how should the WTO address human rights?

Keywords: international human rights, international trade system, trade sanctions, WTO

JEL Classification: K00, K39

Suggested Citation

Vazquez, Carlos Manuel, Trade Sanctions and Human Rights - Past, Present, and Future (2003). Journal of International Economic. Law, Vol. 6, pp. 797-839, 2003; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-080; Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 12-026. Available at SSRN:

Carlos Manuel Vazquez (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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