Non-Trade Concerns: Magic words that will make global governance frameworks more “human”?

Global governance systems, such as the World Trade Organization, are mainly due to their technocratic nature coupled with their objectives, resting in achieving of economic efficiency and growth, quite frequently blamed for being detached from common people and their concerns as well as for lacking democratic legitimacy. Global governance frameworks, including the World Trade Organization, have attempted to react to these allegations by undertaking some procedural reforms of their internal processes, such as the improvement of transparency requirements concerning their decision-making procedures. However, these procedural changes might not be sufficient for global governance frameworks to regain the trust of the public in the long run. Any reforms with an ambition to have long-term effects require addressing of substantive aspects as well. As Jean-Yves Heurtebise in his chapter “Understanding Non-Trade Concerns Through Comparative Chinese and European Philosophy of Law” in the book “China´s Influence on Non-Trade Concerns in International Economic Law” argues, such a substantive ethical and legal basis going beyond the cultural differences of various Member States might be represented by Non-Trade Concerns. The concept of Non-Trade Concerns covers a range of fundamental rights, many of which fall under the scope of economic, social and cultural rights. The right to food or the right to water might be mentioned as examples. Since the improvement of economic and social conditions of the population is in the interest of the majority of the States of the world ruled by different political regimes, it is reasonable to expect a certain consensus on these common values and concerns. The improvement of the living standards of their population is in the vital interest for the stability of governments worldwide; in fact, it represents one of the crucial preconditions for gaining - and retaining - the population´s support. China might use this momentum to lead the discussion on the future of the Non-Trade Concerns, accentuating their own priorities, resting in the support of economic, social and cultural rights rather than civil and political rights. As any possible solution to the content of the Non-Trade Concerns will be the result of a consensus reached among World Trade Organization´s Member States, such a discourse might enable China to transform the world. And eventually, it will also transform China itself.