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Contribution to Book
The Conventional Morality of Trade
Global Justice and International Economic Law: Opportunities and Prospects (2012)
  • Chin Leng Lim, University of Hong Kong
This chapter is concerned with the kinds of moral and political arguments that developing countries have made in the name of global justice. Claims for the direct global redistribution of resources have not loomed large in international trade law and regulation. To be sure, they were raised during the failed negotiations for an International Trade Organization (ITO), but the principal tension that has come to the fore in trade law and policy debate is that between the formal rules of nondiscrimination under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the developing countries’ calls for exceptions to those rules. Today, little has changed in relation to the basic developing-country position. The kinds of legal policy arguments that these countries have made in the GATT in the name of global justice have been about what lawyers call “substantive” as opposed to “formal” equality. My concerns in this chapter are empirical, having to do with claims that developing countries have actually made, how these claims have contributed to their institutional behavior in the GATT, and to the making and application of trade rules. Before we ask what theories of justice can tell us about actual situations, we would need to know something about the actual situation at hand. We would need to revisit the history of developing-country participation from the earliest days of the GATT. Asking about the nature of actual events could also bridge the gap between today’s ideal theories of global justice and the international lawyer’s preoccupation with how nations have conducted themselves in practice. This would include inquiry into the claims that trading nations make about justice and rules. Understanding such positive or conventional trade morality is an important part of understanding what theories of justice can ultimately bring to improvements in institutional and trade rule design instead of treating such moral claims which developing countries have made as irrelevant or mistaken from the outset.
  • developing country,
  • trade morality,
  • redistribution of resources,
  • GATT
Publication Date
C. Carmody, F. Garcia & J. Linarelli
Cambridge University Press
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Citation Information
Chin Leng Lim. "The Conventional Morality of Trade" Global Justice and International Economic Law: Opportunities and Prospects (2012)
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