WTO & Human Rights: Examining Linkages and Suggesting Convergence

IDLO Voices of Development Jurists, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2005

37 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2005


The paper examines some aspects of the relationship between trade liberalization and human rights. Whereas there are a lot of policy proposals to avoid the negative effects of trade liberalization on the human rights situation in WTO Member States, not all approaches are feasible to improve the trade and human rights relationship. One of the most controversial issues is the use of trade measures to enforce human rights or social standards. Apart from the legal constraints stemming from the WTO agreements, it is, however, doubtful from an economic and political point of view, whether such measures are suitable, as they harm rather than improve the human rights situation in the target country. A more effective way to address negative impacts of trading rules on the human rights situation is the 'human rights approach' proposed by the UN human rights bodies, which have identified a number of possibilities to incorporate human rights considerations into the work of the WTO. There are, however, limits to the WTO possibilities, which can only be overcome through cooperation with and flanking policies of other relevant international organizations. Although the WTO cannot mutate to a human rights organization, it must take steps to acknowledge the human rights effects of its work in order to maintain credibility. As a member-driven organization, the main responsibility for action lies with the Member States of the WTO. As a satisfactory human rights situation also improves the economic development and attractiveness of a state, human rights and economic development are not contradictory but mutually support each other.

Keywords: WTO, human rights

JEL Classification: F15, K31, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Zagel, Gudrun Monika, WTO & Human Rights: Examining Linkages and Suggesting Convergence. IDLO Voices of Development Jurists, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=740265

Gudrun Monika Zagel (Contact Author)

University of Salzburg School of Law ( email )

A-5020 Salzburg
+43-662-8044-3667 (Phone)

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