Retooling Trade Agreements for Social Inclusion



Gregory Shaffer | University of Illinois

International trade law has been oblivious to social inclusion. It is not the reason for the weakening of the U.S. economy and entrenchments of poverty, but it is nevertheless blamed for them, including the shuttering of factories, joblessness, and even homelessness. Although it is not primarily to blame, it is not wholly innocent either. International trade law plays a powerful role in fomenting the conditions under which people may thrive, implicating social equality and inclusion. This Article addresses why international trade law needs to be structured in ways that support social inclusion if society is to turn the tide against rising neo-nationalism, racism, and authoritarianism. The impacts of trade and rapid technological change on income inequality and the security of work have become politically salient issues in the United States and Europe. They have led to the rise of nativist political parties that threaten to upset the international institutional framework. The outcome could be dire. The Article shows how international economic law can and should be retooled. By doing so, it can: (i) help combat harmful tax competition, avoidance, and evasion; (ii) aid domestic social security and job retraining; (iii) support labor protection; (iv) deter social dumping; and (v) enable industrial policy experimentation for development.


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