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International Labour and Environmental Standards Agreements: Is This Fair Trade?

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  • Steven Suranovic

Abstract

Labour and environmental standards agreements are two contentious proposals that have contributed to the failure of the WTO to launch a new round of trade liberalisation discussions and have prevented the US President from obtaining fast-track negotiating authority. Proponents of the agreements have been able to win substantial political support by arguing that standardised rules on labour practices and environmental regulations is the only way to assure that international trade remains fair. Although there are widespread demands for 'fair trade,' there remains a lack of understanding as to what fairness means exactly. Recently, a comprehensive catalogue of fairness principles was presented by Suranovic (2000). This paper will analyse the proposals for labour and environmental standards with respect to these fairness principles in order to characterise how fairness is used by supporters of these policies. The paper will also show that by using different fairness principles, opponents of these policies can argue that these same policies are unfair. The fact that reasonable notions of fairness can be applied by both opponents and proponents of these agreements highlights difficulties with fairness, per se, as a useful guide to policy. The paper uses this contentious issue to highlight the conceptual difficulties of proposals for fair trade. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd 2002.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Suranovic, 2002. "International Labour and Environmental Standards Agreements: Is This Fair Trade?," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(2), pages 231-245, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:worlde:v:25:y:2002:i:2:p:231-245
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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Becchetti & Furio Camillo Rosati, 2005. "The demand for socially responsible products: empirical evidence from a pilot study on fair trade consumers," Working Papers 04, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    2. Busse, Matthias, 2004. "Trade, environmental regulations and the World Trade Organization : new empirical evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3361, The World Bank.
    3. Becchetti, Leonardo & Federico, Giorgio & Solferino, Nazaria, 2005. "The game of social responsibility: pioneers, imitators and social welfare," AICCON Working Papers 15-2005, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    4. Becchetti, Leonardo & Solferino, Nazaria, 2005. "The dynamics of ethical product differentiation and the habit formation of socially responsible consumers," AICCON Working Papers 8-2005, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.
    5. Becchetti Leonardo & Giorgio Federico & Solferino Nazaria, 2011. "What to do in globalised economies if global governance is missing? The vicarious role of competition in social responsibility," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 58(2), pages 185-211, June.
    6. Fort, Ricardo & Ruben, Ruerd, 2009. "The impact of Fair Trade on banana producers in northern Peru," 2009 Conference, August 16-22, 2009, Beijing, China 50964, International Association of Agricultural Economists.

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