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What are debates about justice in international trade really about

'What are debates about justice in international trade really about'
What are debates about justice in international trade really about?Christian Barry, Editor Ethics and International Affairs JournalThe WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong—the most recent of the Doha development round talks—confirmed the salience of the debate on trade, which has focused on the question of whether the evolving WTO system, which aims to liberalize trade in goods, capital, ideas, and (to a lesser extent) people within a multilateral and market-oriented framework, is fair or just. Some activists, academics, and policy makers have increasingly voiced concerns that the trade system is seriously unjust, or at the very least not as just as it might be. Others have rushed to its defense, arguing that even if this system is not the best of all possible trading systems, it is certainly the best that can be feasibly realized in the present world.Disagreements about the justice of the WTO system are sometimes purely empirical, concerning only the best means to achieve shared ethical objectives. In such cases, advocates of opposing positions agree on the considerations that are relevant for determining the justice of these rules—they share the same conception of justice in trade—but nevertheless disagree about how these considerations apply to a particular case because they disagree on relevant facts. That is, we can have purely empirical disagreements about the justice of the World Trade Organization's agreement on intellectual property rules (the TRIPS agreement) because of divergent predictions of how TRIPS will serve the shared goals of ensuring access to life-saving medical treatments and protecting the property rights of those who create socially beneficial products such as life-saving medical treatments.However, the debate is often underlined by divergent views on more fundamental questions of principle. In such cases, advocates of opposing positions may agree on all the relevant facts but disagree about whether some arrangements are just. We may thus agree completely in our predictions of the likely effects of the TRIPS agreement, yet still disagree about its justice. This might happen because we attach different importance to the goals of ensuring access of poor people to life-saving drugs and and protecting the property rights of those who create .It is often very difficult in practice to determine what kind of disagreements are really at issue. Consider, for example, two statements on the outcome from Hong Kong. Oxfam's spokesman Phil Bloomer commented: "Rich country interests have prevailed yet again and poor countries have had to fight a rearguard action simply to keep some of their issues on the table." In contrast, WTO's director-general, Pascal Lamy, described the WTO as a "healthy and democratic common institution" in which decision-making is "burdensome and cumbersome" yet "remains the best way to take decisions that impact directly the lives of billions of people." Lamy's refusal to denounce the HOng Kong meeting
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