Children’s Rights and Trade Liberalization: Legal, Economic, and Policy Perspectives

Candace Parker and I have co-authored a book chapter that appears in a new volume edited by Claire Fenton-Glynn entitled Children’s Rights in International Sustainable Development Law. Our chapter examines the opportunities and challenges for protecting and promoting the rights of children within the field of international trade law and the globalized economy to which it has given rise. In section 2, we review the effects of trade liberalization and economic globalization on the rights of children around the world. We outline the benefits and disadvantages of the economic growth emanating from the expansion of international trade, with emphasis on its implications for state and corporate obligations to protect, respect, and fulfil the rights of children under the UNCRC. In section 3, we discuss the relationship between legal obligations relating to the protection of the rights of children and those relating to the liberalization of trade under international law. We begin by outlining a children’s rights approach to international trade based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child and then discuss whether and how the promotion of the rights of children could be accommodated within the rules and principles of the WTO. In section 4, we consider two potential instruments for advancing the rights of children at the intersections of these two regimes, namely children’s rights impact assessments and non-state market-driven certification programmes. In section 5, we conclude with a broader discussion of the prospects for protecting children’s rights in a globalizing world.