Saturday, February 05, 2011

Exporting Norms

A Chinese colleague is working on an interesting topic for her PhD thesis: EU's attempts to 'export' its values and change China's 'behaviour'.

The main idea here is that values form the basis for norms (shared values), and by setting norms you try to control behavior. The EU has a set nine stated values which it wants other countries to accept - inclusive equality, social solidarity, sustainable development, good governance, associative human rights, supranational rule-of-law, social liberty, consensual democracy and sustainable peace. It is being argued that China, on the other had, does not try to spread any of its values to the rest of the world. While this part may be debatable (after all, Chinese pragmatism is also a value - "if you want to do business, please spare us your moral lectures"), the issue of values presents a study of contradiction in the prevailing Western world-view.

There is actually no shortage of trade-related decisions that are based on values and norms. For eg.,  the ongoing sanctions on Myanamar 'in support of democratic reforms' and the EU threat to withdraw trade concessions to Sri Lanka for 'human rights violations'.  Schimmelfennig (2001) calls this form of collective bargaining behavior "rhetorical action" - the strategic use of norm-based arguments.

Yet, the fact remains that such strategies are used only when it suits EU's convenience. They would not dream of banning imports of oil from OPEC countries just because some autocrat violated human rights!


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