The Future of Human Rights Impact Assessments of Trade Agreements develops a methodology for human rights impact assessments of trade agreements and considers whether there is any value in using the methodology on a sustained basis to ensure that the human dimensions of international trade are taken into account when negotiating trade agreements. The thesis sets out the various ways that trade can benefit people, but also ways where trade can threaten people’s rights – to access food, medicines and education or to protect cultural heritage. A step-by-step process is identified as a way to identify likely impacts of trade agreements before the agreement is implemented. The objective of the methodology is to find a way to ensure that free trade works for people, as well as the economy and corporations. A case study in Costa Rica illustrates the methodology in practice, and identifies some of the benefits and risks of relying on human rights law as a means of analyzing trade agreements. The benefits lie in the strong analytical framework of human rights law and the strength provided by identifying people’s basic needs as freedoms and legal entitlements. The human rights framework also brings with it risks, particularly the potential to politicize trade negotiation processes and to distance governments who might not be willing to subject trade policies to the accountability framework proposed by human rights law. Weighing the benefits of such assessments with the risks, there is a future for human rights impact assessments. Most likely, human rights non-governmental organizations and academics as well as national human rights institutions will proceed further with the methodology to test it and to move towards undertaking assessments as a typical step in trade negotiations
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