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MFN Status, Trade Embargoes, Sanctions and Blockades: An Examination of Some Overlooked Property, Contract and Other Human Rights Issues


  • Robert W. McGee

    (Seton Hall University)


Most Favored Nation (MFN) status, trade embargoes and blockades have traditionally been used to entice nations to alter their behavior or to punish them for certain behavior. The intentions behind these policies are generally noble, at least on the surface. However, instituting these policies has side-effects. For example, FDR's blockade of raw materials against the Japanese in Manchuria in the 1930s arguably led to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which got the United States involved in World War II. The decades-long blockade of Cuba not only did not lead to the topple of the communist regime there, but may have strengthened Castro's hold on the island and has created animosity toward the United States in Latin America and much suffering by the people of Cuba. Various studies have concluded that blockades and economic sanctions generally have not been effective from a utilitarian or policy perspective, yet these policies continue. This paper briefly examines the literature on MFN status, trade embargoes and blockades, but goes beyond the normal utilitarian analysis into some overlooked issues involving property and contract rights and other human rights. Particular attention is paid to the use and possible abuse of MFN status as applied to the People's Republic of China and North Korea, and the trade sanctions against Cuba and Iraq. The paper concludes that a mere utilitarian analysis is insufficient when determining whether trade sanctions should be imposed on a country whose behavior is deemed inappropriate by some segment of the international community. Certain rights issues must also be considered.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert W. McGee, 1998. "MFN Status, Trade Embargoes, Sanctions and Blockades: An Examination of Some Overlooked Property, Contract and Other Human Rights Issues," International Trade 9805002, EconWPA.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpit:9805002
    Note: Type of Document - none; prepared on Word 6.0; to print on HP/PostScript/; pages: 11 ; figures: none. This paper was presented at the International Trade & Finance Association conference in Atlantic City, NJ, May, 1998.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James A. Dorn, 1996. "Trade and Human Rights: The Case of China," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 16(1), pages 63-76, Spring/Su.
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    More about this item


    MFN most favored nation trade embargoes sanctions human rights contract rights property rights;

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • F02 - International Economics - - General - - - International Economic Order and Integration
    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F42 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - International Policy Coordination and Transmission
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • K1 - Law and Economics - - Basic Areas of Law

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