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GATT, Human Rights and Burma (r)

Subject: GATT, Human Rights and Burma

/* Written 10:56 pm  Nov 22, 1993 by bmcallister@xxxxxxxxxxx in igc:reg.seasia */
/* ---------- "GATT, Human Rights and Burma" ---------- */
VI.Proposals for GATT Amendment

	Following the Nicaragua case, several GATT Members requested that
measures be taken in the current Uruguay round deliberations to amend GATT
to develop a clearer framework of rules to govern Article XXI actions.[1] 
Commentators militating for a more rigorous and systematic regime of
economic sanctions have requested that there be a special GATT working
party to oversee Article XXI security exceptions and facilitate better
definition of the parameters of such sanctions.[2]  In this way, GATT would
be interpreted as recognizing trade sanctions imposed to protect human
rights as essential tools in the protection of world security and the
maintenance of peace.  Other commentators argue that the GATT panels
cannot escape political constraints, and should therefore engage them
openly.[3]  In doing this they should: widen the scope of panel inquiry;
judicialize the panels, for example by creating a permanent roster of non-
government experts; allow panels to make binding findings of law and fact;
recognize the precedential force of case law; and replace the unilateral
language of the exception with an objective standard.  Others find that
GATT panels are too weak and politically skewed to take on such challenges
in that outcomes are most often a result of economic might.[4]  These
critics argue that the International Court of Justice should be given
plenary authority to oversee all such suits. 


	In the meantime, the unsettled status of the law might encourage
challenges to sanctions where they have not happened.  Even if challenges
to sanctions against Burma are raised, the relief available under GATT is
so limited that, as in the Nicaraguan sugar quota case, the U.S. can run
the risk of GATT sanctioned remedies and still maintain its foreign
policy.[5]  In the Nicaragua case, the U.S. even responded to the
unfavorable GATT ruling with a more comprehensive embargo.  As a world
leader, the United States should engage in a proactive policy which will
encourage resolution of these issues with constructive diplomatic
	As for the specific case of Burma, a combined assertion of national
security and slave labor exceptions should enable the U.S. to legally
impose sanctions under domestic authorization.


[1].Whitt, supra note 76, at 624-26.

[2].John H. Jackson, World Trade and the Law of the GATT, 752 (1969), cited
in Carter, supra note 31, at 260, fn. 85.

[3].Hufbauer and Schott, Trading for Growth: The Next Round of Trade Negotiations,
11 Inst. Int'l Econ. 79 (1985).

[4].Whitt, supra note 76, at 626

[5].See Carter, supra note 31, at 139.  This would be especially true of a country
such as South Africa which would not wish to subject its tenuous order to trial by
international tribunal.