Freedom and Justice in Trade Governance

Review essay on Frank J. Garcia’s Consent and Trade: Trading Freely in a Global Market and Mathias Risse and Gabriel Wollner’s On Trade Justice: A Philosophical Plea for a New Global Deal.

“Freedom and Justice in Trade Governance,” Ethics & International Affairs Volume 34, Special Issue 3 (The United Nations at Seventy-Five: Looking Back to Look Forward), Fall 2020, pp. 401-412

Abstract: Two recent books consider the future of trade governance. Consent and Trade proposes reforms to trade agreements so that states can consent more freely to their terms. On Trade Justice defends reforms to the World Trade Organization, arguing that multilateralism is the foundation for a “new global deal” on trade. Each book describes trade’s distinctive features and proposes a principle to regulate both trade and trade governance. Consent and Trade defends a principle of respect for state consent in trade agreements. On Trade Justice offers a theory of trade justice that requires nonexploitation. Consent and nonexploitation are important principles for economic exchanges. However, trade governance and trade itself are different forms of cooperation, with different agents and different interests at stake. Consent and nonexploitation are less compelling as principles for trade governance than for trade itself. Both books understate the conflict between their principles for trade governance and liberal justice.