Human Rights and International Economic Law

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Ostensibly, international human rights law and international economic law (incorporating international trade law and international investment law) seek to achieve similar outcomes, namely the protection of certain rights so as to promote human flourishing. However, compatibility between international economic law and human rights law cannot be presumed. While restrictions on, for example, protectionism can undoubtedly have positive human rights effects, there are significant areas of divergence. For example, international trade law is widely acknowledged as being biased against poorer countries, and swift trade liberalisation may in fact undermine a State’s ability to implement its obligations regarding economic social and cultural rights. Direct conflicts between the regimes may arise with regard to the implementation of the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). A number of arbitrations under bilateral investment treaties have posed possible threats to a State’s capacity to fulfil human rights. Finally, a chilling impact on human rights implementation may arise from the loss of policy space which flows from international economic law. Ultimately, international economic law focuses on the rights of a privileged few, namely foreign traders and investors, which may lead to the inevitable prioritisation of their rights when they clash with or otherwise detract from the human rights of others. Such a prioritisation is unfortunate if it adds to the capacity for powerful entities to override the interests of the powerless and marginalised.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Yearbook of International Economic Law 2016
EditorsMarc Bungenberg, Christoph Herrmann, Markus Krajewski, Jorg Philipp Terhechte
Place of PublicationSwitzerland
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783319292151
ISBN (Print)9783319292144
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameEuropean Yearbook of International Economic Law
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISSN (Print)2364-8392
ISSN (Electronic)2364-8406

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