Protecting Human Rights in the Context of Free Trade? The Case of the SADC Group Economic Partnership Agreement

Date01 November 2014
Published date01 November 2014
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/eulj.12105
Protecting Human Rights in the Context
of Free Trade? The Case of the SADC
Group Economic Partnership Agreement
Clair Gammage*
Abstract: As free trade agreements proliferate, the relationship between trade and
human rights continues to attract attention across academic disciplines. The linkages
between human rights and liberal trade rules have been the subject of debate for some
time. Since most countries tend to afford constitutional protection to both human rights
and freedom of trade, there appears to be an inescapable connection between the two
regimes. In theory, at least, economic growth should improve human rights standards
and conditionality can be one way through which human rights compliance is achieved.
However, in practice, States often pursue economic objectives that conflict with their
human rights obligations. This article explores the linkages and potential conflicts
between human rights and trade in the context of regional trade agreements, with a focus
on the interim Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the
Southern African Development Community Group.
I Introduction
The linkages between human rights and liberal trade rules have been the subject of
debate for some time.1It is often assumed that, in theory, at least, economic growth
and increased foreign direct investment will have a positive impact on human rights
standards. Globalisation has brought about many changes to the global trading
environment, with firms and businesses across the world connecting with one another
on a daily basis. As new governance frameworks emerge in relation to trade regula-
tion, it is important not to overlook the connection between trade and human rights.
* Lecturer, School of Law, University of Bristol.
1For an in-depth account of the links between the two regimes, see T. Cottier, J. Pauwelyn and E. Burgi
(eds), Human Rights and International Trade Law (Oxford University Press, 2005); and more recently,
A. Lang, World Trade Law After Neoliberalism: Reimagining the Global Economic Order (Oxford
University Press, 2011).
For purposes of concision, SADC-EPA is used through the article instead of SADC Group EPA.
SADC is made up of 15 countries (Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho,
Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanza-
nia, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Of these countries, only Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique,
Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland reached an interim agreement with the EU under the ‘SADC’
banner. This agreement is not yet ratified. Other SADC states are negotiating in other constellations
especially in the Eastern (and Southern) African EPAs. Even within the SADC-EPA group, each of the
states have elected to adhere to the interim agreement at varied speed as a function of specific national
economic interests.
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European Law Journal, Vol. 20, No. 6, November 2014, pp. 779–792.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

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