Whether trade liberalization in general helps or hurts human rights, particularly the rights of the most vulnerable, is a complex question to answer in the abstract. Yet, before a trade agreement is concluded, it is imperative to examine how the agreement might affect human rights, and consequently which safeguards could be included.
Last week, I co-authored a piece with Olivier De Schutter, the current UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega trade and investment deal between the United States and 11 other countries. TPP negotiations are nearing the end, and the Obama administration is pushing for Trade Promotion Authority, which would help “fast track” a vote through Congress. The TPP is meant to be a new model of a 21st Century agreement, but its wide-ranging purview could have a number of public policy implications. De Schutter and I argue that negotiating countries should show leadership by conducting a human rights impact assessment before the deal is concluded, as well as requiring ex post assessments. You can read the full piece on Project Syndicate here.