GSP+ and Human Rights: Is the EU's Approach the Right One?

Bruce Wardhaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Among the purposes of the EU’s GSP+ programme is to link human rights to trade incentives, with the idea of using such incentives to promote developing countries’ adoption of the values found in core human rights treaties. With the re-renewal of the GSP (and GSP+) programmes to take effect in January 2014, it is fruitful to examine their efficacy and consistency with WTO law. In this article, I argue the GSP+ programme is not only ineffective in obtaining an improvement in human rights conditions for the vast majority of the world’s population, but it is also incompatible with WTO law. A stick-based regime where human rights abuses are linked to trade sanctions is a better way to proceed. After outlining the GSP+ system, and its linkage of human rights and trade, I analyse its efficacy and WTO consistency. Having shown that it is ineffective and contrary to WTO law, I argue that trade sanctions based on a PPM distinction and/or GATT XX(a) may be the appropriate means of linking trade and human rights. The article ends with some concluding remarks on the need for the careful design of such a system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-846
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • WTO Law
  • human rights
  • Development
  • European Union


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