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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: July 2009

The World Trade Organization and Human Rights



The topic of ‘The World Trade Organization (WTO) and Human Rights’ has been the subject of much controversy as well as increasing academic interest. Anti-globalisation groups blamed the WTO for not being sensitive to the consequences of its legal rules which can result in serious human rights violations. The former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN HCHR), Mary Robinson, basing her comments on numerous resolutions and reports adopted in UN human rights bodies, has emphasised the need to investigate the relationship between international trade liberalisation and human rights. This has been responded to by the academic community in a growing number of publications. Since the time of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the United States has called for recognition of ‘workers' rights’, i.e. social standards, in GATT and WTO rules, and also the European Communities have proposed to give more attention to non trade issues. However, the developing country members of the WTO, in particular, have largely resisted any efforts to deal with non-economic issues in the WTO and successfully requested the elimination of these issues from the agenda of the Doha Round as part of the ‘July package’ of 2004. Only the issue of ‘trade facilitation’ survived from the so-called ‘Singapore issues’, which besides investment and competition originally also covered basic workers' rights.

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