Wages and Bottlenecks: Free Trade, Ethics, and Information: Reconciling International Trade with National Ethical Standards
In: Proceedings of the Conference on Globalization and Its Discontents
Increasing globalization and free trade agreements have generated a number of controversies. One significant issue is the potential conflict between free trade and ethical standards. While free trade in theory need not be antithetical to ethical standards, as defined in practice by major trade organizations free trade conflicts with national ethical standards for issues such as labor standards, environmental impact, and animal welfare. The concerns of trade organizations on this issue have some merit. However, the one-sided position of trade organizations is both flawed and politically unsustainable. A balance must be achieved between legitimate ethical issues and minimizing trade barriers. Guidelines or principles are presented for how trade organizations can balance legitimate ethical issues against free trade considerations. In addition, it is argued that the provision of information valued by consumers should be allowed as a matter of general principle. In fact, the rather than information provision being a trade barrier, the prohibition of information provision is in fact a trade barrier.
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