Continuation of the brisk pace of international economic growth with its necessarily increased use of natural resources—often at unsustainable levels—and its higher levels of pollution—often at the cost of citizen health—combine with the rules of the global trading system to threaten human rights to health, to freedom from forced or child labor, to non-discrimination, to a fair wage, to a healthy environment, even to democratic governance and participation in the political process. As a result, in recent years a growing number of economists begrudgingly acknowledge the incontrovertible—although presently dysfunctional—linkage between trade and human rights and the need to integrate these two great global policies. In light of the slow progress in the recognition of human rights by the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) and the recent boom in regional trade agreements (“RTAs”), human rights advocates are now examining whether RTAs may be more effective avenues for human rights enforcement within the global trading system, given the impossibility that trade rules can any longer afford to ignore their widespread effects on human rights. This paper explores the framework of recent RTAs as a vehicle for compliance with a variety of UN-mandated human rights, in a manner that is consistent with the fundamental rules of the trading system, focusing on the rich history of RTAs in the Western Hemisphere. This article concludes that nations have moral, legal, and economic obligations to take advantage of these possibilities to achieve greater economic integration as well as further protection for the welfare of their people.
Stephen Joseph Powell & Patricia Camino Pérez, Global Laws, Local Lives: Impact of the New Regionalism on Human Rights Compliance, 17 Buff. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 117 (2011), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/104