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Issues of Fairness in International Trade Agreements


  • Andrew Brown
  • Robert Stern

    (Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan)


In this paper, we first describe the characteristics of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that are the basis of the framework of the multilateral trading system. We then provide an overview of concepts of fairness in trade agreements. Thereafter, we offer a critique of the efficiency criterion in assessing multilateral trade agreements, taking issue with T.N. Srinivasan’s (2006) analysis and then elaborate on our conception of fairness as reflected in agreements covering market access. We also address considerations of distributive justice, in contrast with Srinivasan’s contention that distributive justice has no role to play in the design and negotiation of multilateral trade agreements. Finally, we question bilateral trade agreements from the standpoint of fairness, drawing on the example of the U.S. bilateral FTA negotiated in 2005 with Central America and the Dominican Republic.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Brown & Robert Stern, 2006. "Issues of Fairness in International Trade Agreements," Working Papers 554, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:mie:wpaper:554

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    Fairness; Equality of Opportunity; Distributive Equity;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations

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