equal opportunity

  • Subverting the Idea(l) of Equal Opportunity in Global Trade: The Paradoxes of Differentiation for Peripheral States

    The existing multilateral trade regime is often beleaguered for unfairly privileging its Western guarantors. Since not all countries command the same opportunity sets to compete in global markets, world trade rules sanction über-rich markets to extend autonomous trade concessions to capital-poor countries without demanding any reciprocal treatment. Given the entanglements of trade in the thorny issues of international development and distributive justice, this paper joins a crowded trade as/and fairness debate by judging how the present global economic order (dis)favors developing and least developed countries on the basis of equal opportunity. In a Roemerian-Rawlsian reading of economic fairness, I start by elevating the demands of diffuse reciprocity over the misguided minimalism of mutual reciprocity in a twin attempt to morally defend asymmetric exchanges between asymmetric trading partners and to redress background inequalities in access to the merits of commerce. While the notion and praxis of altruism in international trade generally allude to northern democracies in modern political thought, this article also unmasks parallel models of special and differential treatment projects lorded over by two seemingly unusual suspects: the Eurasian Economic Union and the People’s Republic of China. In juxtaposing weak and strong conceptions of equal opportunity vis-à-vis leading compensatory measures presently open to needy nations, I articulate how the strong standard of equal opportunity is partially cantilevered by existing level-playing-field structures and yet brutally bulldozed at once by the politics of donor discretion. Finally, although a diluted form of diffuse reciprocity grows more fashionable among affluent and emerging economies, unlocking the strong standard of equal opportunity still insists on a solidaristic system of preferences to diffuse both opportunities and obligations arising from a less tilted trading order as widely and deeply as possible.

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