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We have addressed the widespread criticism that international trade rules are insensitive to basic human rights and that globalization has done little with its enormous power to preserve exhaustible natural resources and otherwise promote sustainable development, to alleviate the gap between rich and poor, to encourage states to grant their citizens basic human rights contained in the U.N. Covenant on Human Rights and other treaties, to resolve the often conflicting policies underlying essential human rights and trade goals, and, in general, to integrate trade and critical human rights law on the global front.

Our focus in this Essay is on the contribution of regional free trade agreements (FTAs) -- primarily the rich trove of such pacts found among the nations of the Western Hemisphere -- to the rule of law. The rule of law, the definition of which in our usage includes the substantive ingredients of justice and fairness, is basic to enjoyment of human rights, and FTAs in our experience have had pronounced effects on attainment of rules-based governance.