Fairness in international economic cooperation: moving beyond Rawls's duty of assistance

In this paper, I will argue that Rawls?s duty of assistance offers an incomplete picture of our international social and economic responsibilities. I will start by presenting the two main interpretations of the ?Rawlsian circumstances of egalitarian distributive justice? ? the first requiring the existence of a ?certain kind? of cooperation, the second the existence of a ?certain kind? of interaction with the will ? and then show that none of them rules out the applicability of international principles of egalitarian distributive justice. My argument will draw on societies? participation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). So, in the second section I will show that even though this organization is not endowed with a centralized coercive authority, its participants are asked to accept significant constraints on their behaviour and are therefore owed a special justification for these constraints. I will also suggest that the alleged voluntariness of this organization may not only be contested (especially when developing societies are involved), but may also not be sufficient to rule out requirements of distributive equality. In the third section, I will show that, as any system of cooperation, the WTO gives rise to requirements of fairness and that, given the purpose it claims to serve, not all inequalities that can be traced back to so-called ?domestic? factors can be considered justified. More specifically, I will argue that the fairness of the WTO requires that all its participants be given a fair chance of benefiting from global market competitions, and that this is likely to entail significant egalitarian distributive duties among societies.
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DOI 10.1080/13698230.2011.572427
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References found in this work BETA
John Rawls (1999). The Law of Peoples. Harvard University Press.
John Rawls (2009/2005). A Theory of Justice. In Steven M. Cahn (ed.), Philosophy and Rhetoric. Oxford University Press 133-135.
Thomas Nagel (2005). The Problem of Global Justice. Philosophy and Public Affairs 33 (2):113–147.
John Rawls (1999). Collected Papers. Harvard University Press.

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