Global Trade Governance and ASEAN: Studies of Trade-Related Aspects of Labor, Environment and Culture in Southeast Asia
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This study addresses the social dimensions of trade (sometimes called “non-trade” issues, values, or objectives) in Southeast Asia. It was inspired by two major events: the debacle of the third World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting in Seattle in 1999, and the visibility of trade liberalization and economic integration in creating a single market and production base in Southeast Asia - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community (AEC) by 2015. Influenced by the school of legal realism and interdisciplinary sociolegal studies, this study seeks to examine the way in which the global trade governance regarding non-trade issues have been institutionalized and addressed in Southeast Asia. To examine the relationship between the impact of globalization and legal adaptation and development on global trade governance in Southeast Asia, this study investigates three contemporary problems regarding trade-related aspects of labor, environment and culture in Southeast Asia. The three problems to be investigated are: (1) pirate fishing and modern slavery in the Thai fishing industry (trade and labor); (2) illegal Siamese rosewood logging and trade in the Greater Mekong sub-region (trade and environment); and (3) tourism development and the struggles of Andaman sea gypsies (trade in service and culture). Based on a problem-based approach and factually-contextual analysis, this study applies doctrinal legal research and qualitative research methods to draw analytic generalizations and a legal normative proposition regarding ASEAN’s response to global trade governance. The study contends that ASEAN should respond more effectively to global trade governance in the region by revising the ASEAN social policy, ASEAN Social Charter and other legal instruments in such a way as to address “non-trade” issues in a more responsible manner. In particular, ASEAN should strengthen traceability, transparency, international cooperation, recognition and participation as features of global trade governance in order to protect human rights, the environment and local cultures. By doing so, it will not only enhance democracy, good governance and the rule of law in the region, but also pave the way for ASEAN regional stability and sustainability—the underlying principles and purposes stated in the ASEAN Charter.
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