AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 250

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Session 250: Coordinating Trade and Human Rights - Examples from Asia

Organizer and Chair: Pitman B. Potter, University of British Columbia, Canada

Discussants: Joseph Caron, University of British Columbia, Canada; Aris Ananta, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore; Bharat Ramaswami, Independent Scholar, India; Pengfei Yang, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, China

While current academic and policy discourses often highlight the contradictions between trade and human rights compliance, this panel will focus on coordinating local compliance with international trade and human rights standards. Based on a major research project funded by the Major Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI) program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Principal Investigator - Pitman Potter, the panel will present theoretical perspectives along with interdisciplinary research from China, India, and Indonesia. Ljiljana Biukovic’s examination of the interplay between trade and investment treaties and human rights compliance will offer conceptual and institutional perspectives on coordinated compliance. Case Studies by Sarah Biddulph, Melbourne University (labor relations in China), economist Ashok Kotwal, UBC (globalization and food security in India) and economist Rick Barichello, UBC (democratization and housing in Indonesia) will offer local perspectives developed through collaborative field studies conducted with colleagues in China, Yang Pengfei (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences); India, Bharat Ramaswami (India Statistical Institute); and Indonesia, Aris Ananta (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies). The panel discussant will be Ambassador Joseph Caron (ret.) who has served as Ambassador of Canada to Japan, China, and India. The panel Chair will be Pitman Potter of UBC’s Institute of Asian Research and Faculty of Law. Applying local knowledge to a global policy issue, the panel will be of significant interest to interdisciplinary scholars working on institutional and social change in East Asia, as well as area specialists for each of the economies examined.

The Effects of Globalization on the Food Security for the Poor in India
Ashok Y. Kotwal, University of British Columbia, Canada

Despite the fact that India has emerged as a fast growing country with impressive progress in IT and other hi-tech sectors, it is still a very poor country with 77% of its population under $2 a day consumption level. Malnourishment affects a large segment of population in India. This is why the Indian parliament is getting ready to pass a bill called ‘Right to Food Act’ that would ensure access to basic food grains at reasonable prices for all. The availability of food at affordable prices depends on the agricultural productivity as well as income earning opportunities for the poor. International trade impinges on both of these factors. It affects the agricultural productivity through technology transfers (e.g., GM technology) and also through its effect on domestic prices. It affects the income opportunities for the poor through its influence on the demand for unskilled labour. Our project examines all these issues in detail

Impact of Chinese Economic Partnership and Investment Treaties on Mainstreaming Human Rights in International Trade Law in Asia
Ljiljana Biukovic, University of British Columbia, Canada

This paper examines two questions: whether the international trade regime and human rights could be integrated and, if so, what is the possible degree of integration. The starting hypothesis is that if there is a possibility of integration of the two subsystems, it should be first realized at the regional level, presuming that countries integrate regionally not only on the basis of their political goals and economic interests but also their cultural similarities and shared societal values about equality, justice, morality and human dignity. The paper explores possible degrees of integration between the two subsystems by looking into functioning of regional trade in Asia. Asia lacks a uniform regional human right system while it has been developing regional trade systems. In addition to plurilateral agreements, such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area, there are numerous bilateral trade and investment agreements negotiated between the countries in the region. While the ASEAN has started building its human rights regime, China, one if its main trade partners, is building its own web of trade agreements by avoiding any reference to human rights norms. The paper analyzes these two approaches to regionalization and argues that Chinese practice will have a negative impact on other countries’ to attempts coordinate compliance with the two subsystems of regional laws.

Democratization and Housing in Indonesia
Richard R. Barichello, University of British Columbia, Canada

Indonesia illustrates policy responses to three aspects of globalization. First, globalized standards of urban citizenship or property rights have conflicted with the human right to migrate from rural to urban areas in search of improved income. This conflict has occasionally become intense, resulting in arguments and violence between city officials and squatters within urban centers who have occupied public spaces for their housing needs. How these issues are being resolved will be part of this presentation. A second aspect of globalization is the reduction in barriers to international trade. This has included agricultural trade since the early 1990s. However, agricultural trade is also an element of the Asian Free Trade Agreement. In both cases, Indonesia is reluctant to open its rice market to freer trade, and the expressed reason is the worry that this will lower rice prices and increase poverty levels among rice farmers. This study provides empirical evidence on whether this element of globalization is actually worsening or reducing poverty levels in Indonesia. The third aspect of globalization in the political sphere concerns an international demand for democracy. As part of the demographic transition and rising incomes, the demand for individual needs increases, and this includes an increased demand for democracy. At the same time, there is an increased awareness of and concern for human rights. Both factors change with the large changes in demography in Indonesia and this will be examined in Indonesia to observe such changes and also any policy responses that are occurring.

Coordinated Compliance: Aspects of Trade and Labour in China
Sarah Biddulph, University of Melbourne, Australia

This paper explores the possibilities for coordinated compliance between international trade and labour regimes in China. The debate about whether to include labour standards into international trade rules is divisive and ongoing. The WTO’s first Ministerial Conference held in Singapore in 1996, whilst declining to include a social clause within world trading rules, affirmed its commitment to observance of ‘internationally recognised core labour standards’. The ILO was designated the appropriate organ to set and encourage adherence to these core labour standards. So, rather than incorporating protection of labour standards directly into the WTO rules, this declaration set in place a system of cooperative parallelism, affirming the importance of the principle but not incorporating that principle within the WTO rules. This paper examines three issue on how this system of cooperative parallelism has found expression in China’s regulation of one of these core labour standards, the right to bargain collectively. First is the extent to which recent reforms in China’s domestic regulation of the right to negotiate collectively moves it toward greater consistency with the international norm. The second is to explore the extent to which China’s participation in international bodies has led to greater ‘socialisation’ into understanding and accepting international norms. The third is to consider the argument that, whilst the primary motivation for reform continues to be domestic economic and social factors, there is a coincidence between domestic needs and international norms and hence the possibility for international engagement to influence policy choices in dealing with current labour problems.