Fairness in international trade and investment: North American perspectives

Frederick Bird, Thomas Vance, Peter Woolstencroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article reviews the practices and differing sets of attitudes North Americans have taken with respect to fairness in international trade and proposes a set of common considerations for ongoing debates about these matters. After reviewing the asymmetrical relations between Canada, the United States, and Mexico and the impact of multilateral trade agreements on bilateral trade between these countries, the article looks at four typical normative views with respect to trade held by North Americans. These views variously emphasize concerns for protectionism, liberal fair play, distributive justice, and dissent in the name of the environment or the working classes. Acknowledging that the debates over what is fair are not likely to be easily resolved, we call for open political processes that allow these debates to proceed, and we identify five common points of reference that might usefully inform these debates. These comprise (1) respect for flexibility, (2) the importance of institutions, (3) greater attention to the commutative justice principles for fair exchanges and corresponding guarantees so that all countries possess basic power to bargain on their own behalf, (4) the need to find fitting balance between local, national, regional, and international trade, and (5) more concern for the ways false pricing and abusive transfer pricing distort international trading relations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)405-425
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Asymmetrical dependency
  • Commutative justice
  • Distributive justice
  • Fair play
  • Fairness
  • Nafta
  • North america
  • Procedural justice
  • Protectionism
  • Transfer pricing
  • Wto

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Fairness in international trade and investment: North American perspectives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this