But what we see now is how this relationship unfolds in a new and rapidly changing context with the growing power of corporations: corporate economic policy-taking, coupled with the increase in human rights violations related to trade and investment; the rise of authoritarian regimes that, on the one hand, continue to promote neoliberal and business-friendly economic policies and, on the other hand, a growing resistance of peoples to this policy – which highlights the problems of inequality and concentration of wealth, environmental destruction and climate change, as well as the erosion of peoples` rights. Emphasis is placed on the primary responsibility of States to ensure that these agreements produce positive results for all and to mitigate negative effects. While the launch of the new round of trade talks in Seattle was thwarted, there was no longer a stop to the free trade agenda. The new negotiations took place two years later at the Doha Ministerial Conference. There are proposals to include the language of human rights in trade agreements. We can see a new example of this in the agreements promoted by the European Union, which contain what is known as a `chapter on sustainable development`, which contains references to obligations to respect workers` rights and core labour standards, as well as obligations to protect the environment. Trade agreements increasingly contain governance and human rights provisions. The US and Canada are the lead countries (the EU was not addressed in this review). However, they are generally selective and focus in particular on workers` rights, transparency and the fight against corruption, as well as public participation and intellectual property rights. Provisions on workers` rights in trade agreements are beginning to shift from hortatorial to obligation, but sanctions and enforcement remain weak. Dispute settlement mechanisms are rarely triggered and, even in cases where economic sanctions could be imposed, this is not the case: signatory parties generally prefer to engage in dialogue to resolve labour disputes (ILO, 2016). Other governance provisions in trade agreements are generally less restrictive.
The UNGP is the current framework for the economy and human rights. It defines three pillars of protection, respect and assistance. It is the duty of the State to protect itself against crimes committed by enterprises; The duty of business to respect human rights, to adopt and implement human rights guidelines, to exercise due diligence to anticipate and prevent or mitigate violations; and States and businesses have a responsibility to remedy infringements. But many States do not recognize this primacy of human rights. In the recent debates on the binding treaty, the proposal on the primacy of human rights was seen as a radical proposal that some States reject, as it could, for example, limit their ability to negotiate new free trade agreements. Both supporters and opponents of free trade agreements agree that such agreements are not the right place to tackle human rights issues. The debate on human rights and development goes back at least seven decades. After World War II, when the world tried to recover from the ravages and rebuild devastated economies, world leaders came together to create common ground for a collective path forward and establish global policies and institutions for global peace and development.