Global basic structure and institutions: The WTO as a practical example

Journal of Global Ethics 7 (1):47 - 58 (2011)
Abstract
In this article, I discuss the location of the sources of global poverty and injustice. I take it as granted that the members of the globally lowest income group live in unacceptable conditions and suffer from injustice. Yet the source of this injustice is a debatable question. Often the existing global institutions are seen as major causes behind this injustice. By taking the World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations as a practical example, I aim to show that blaming the institutions as such can lead to misguided conclusions. The WTO, in fact, is quite just if one merely analyses its institutional structure. I argue that the major source of injustice are rather the prevailing power structures and the conduct of individual governments within this institutional framework, in other words the metaprocedural unfairness in the trade negotiations. I further argue that applications of Rawlsian theory of justice tend to be misleading at the global institutional level, as they focus disproportionately on the institutional structure, and tend to underestimate the relevance of the conduct of governments and the existing power structures, which allow powerful countries to use the institutional framework unjustly in their favour
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    John Rawls (1993). Political Liberalism. Columbia University Press.

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