Trade in the Transition towards a Just World

Some progressives include trade restrictions in their toolkit of policy instruments for bringing about a just world. I will argue that trade restrictions have become a less valuable tool for pursuing progressive aims, as a result of ongoing changes in global trade. One change in global trade is that the multilateral forum of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is becoming less important in comparison to regional, bilateral, and unilateral sites of decision-making. A second change is that ethno-nationalist populism is an increasingly prevalent motivation for foreign policy decisions. These changes to the liberal internationalist order make it more difficult for progressives to implement their proposals. I also argue that progressives who support trade restrictions run the risk of unintentionally cooperating with political groups who aim to dismantle multilateralism and impose costs on foreigners. This paper contributes to debates within political theory about the appropriate means for agents to pursue political change. It also contributes to the global justice literature, by identifying particular positions that should be a priority for progressives in current political conditions, rather than the long run.