n African Human Rights Law Journal - Trade and human rights : a perspective for agents of trade policy using a rights-based approach to development

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



International trade is essential for economic growth. It provides opportunities for employment, income, foreign exchange and access to foreign products and technologies. In the process of achieving these gains, the possibility exists for negative and adverse socio-economic effects on groups, individuals and the environment. Presently being debated is the impact of international trade on the environment, health, labour and human rights. Various economic, social and political arguments have been made to resist addressing these issues using the international trade regime. Employing the twin concepts of a rights-based approach to development and sustainable development, this paper argues for these concerns to be made an integral part of international trade law policy design and implementation, at national and international levels. While international trade may lead to economic growth, current studies show that it may not necessarily lead to development. This is especially so if international trade rules and policies fail to focus on the central object of development, which is the human being. Trade rules should have as its ultimate and foremost aim the promotion of human welfare. Consequently, since human rights, health, the environment and labour rights impinge directly on human welfare, they must not be considered in isolation from trade.

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