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This project addresses the challenge of coordinating local compliance with international trade and human rights standards in the Asia-Pacific region. Through an interdisciplinary program of research, analysis and policy intervention the project will build conceptual understanding and policy analysis supporting coordinated compliance with international standards on trade and human rights. This is a critical issue for the globalized world, as international, regional, and sub-national disputes over issues of trade and human rights become increasingly serious obstacles to international cooperation. Resolving and where possible preventing such disputes will not only benefit the course of international cooperation in areas of trade and human rights, but also reduce transactional, operational, and opportunity costs resulting from international disputes that make existing relationships more complex and costly, require significant management costs, and distract public and private sector leaders from other more productive pursuits.

Coordinating local compliance with international trade and human rights standards has been difficult in part because of conceptual differences and assumed trade-offs between these two regimes. All too often human rights standards in areas such as labor, health, and housing and are seen as inconsistent with trade goals of efficiency, economic growth, and private property rights. Conversely, trade policy in areas such as transparency and rule of law, subsidies and dumping, and intellectual property rights are seen as threatened by human rights advocacy and criticism. As well, coordinated compliance with international trade and human rights standards has been elusive because the officials and specialists who manage local interpretation and implementation of these regimes often have few opportunities for institutional collaboration.

Mindful of these conceptual and organizational challenges, we apply normative and institutional compliance paradigms developed in our Phase I MCRI to build knowledge and policy support for coordinating local compliance with international trade and human rights standards in ways that are mutually sustaining rather than conflicted. Through data collection and analysis on five Asia-Pacific economies, this project aims to develop a compliance model that can help explain the possibilities and obstacles to coordinated compliance with international trade and human rights standards and build policy support for integration. This is important not only for the intrinsic value of understanding better the interplay between trade and human rights compliance in particular economies, but also for its potential to prevent and avoid disputes over trade and human rights compliance and thus reduce costs of international cooperation.

Our Phase I MCRI project focused on the dynamics of Selective Adaptation and Institutional Capacity to explain the normative and structural contexts for local compliance in Canada, China and Japan of international rule regimes on trade and human rights as separate and distinct discourses. Informed by the discoveries in our Phase I MCRI project and particularly the outcomes from our dissemination sessions for Phase I data and analysis, our current Second Phase examines conditions for coordinating local compliance with international trade and human rights standards. The project supports interview and archival research in dispute resolution as well as development of local Case Studies selected and developed with Canadian policy needs in mind. The project involves data collection and comparative analysis in Canada, China and Japan. In an expansion of our Phase I scope, our current Phase II program includes research on India and Indonesia. Trade and human rights challenges in these areas are particularly acute, as rapid integration with the world economy raises issues of coordinating compliance with international trade and human rights standards.

The project involves collaboration among researchers from eight institutions in North America and East Asia, all of whom share collaborative research experience, in part through our Phase I MCRI. Collaboration on this scale is required by the inherent characteristics of the proposed research. First, close cooperation with local scholars is essential to building the relations of trust necessary to conduct local empirical research on sensitive issues of trade and human rights policy. Team members are drawn from law schools, social science departments, policy research institutes, and dispute resolution organizations, and have a wealth of interdisciplinary training and experience in cross-cultural and comparative research.

As in our Phase I project, the research in Phase II is carried out through an international network involving two Canadian universities (UBC and York University), and key institutions in Japan (Waseda University), China (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences). For this Phase II project, the network has been expanded to include, Indonesia (Gadjah Madah University), and India (Delhi School of Economics and the Indian Statistical Institute). The project also involves close collaboration with Australia’s Melbourne University, an invaluable partner in our initial MCRI project. The interdisciplinary nature of the project and research network underscores its collaborative features.



UBC Law Faculty enjoys a leading reputation in interdisciplinary research in areas including trade and human rights, dispute resolution, cross-cultural studies and Asian law. UBC Law Faculty’s Asian Legal Studies Program has close ties with counterparts across Asia, thus providing a strong foundation for collaboration with Japan’s Waseda University and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in China. UBC’s Institute of Asian Research (IAR) is widely recognized as the leading research facility of its kind in Canada. IAR members have powerful networks across the Asia Pacific region, including important links to trade and human rights organizations and have a strong record of cooperation with Gadjah Madah University in Indonesia and with India’s Delhi School of Economics and Indian Statistical Institute. As Professor in the Faculty of Law and Director of IAR, Principal Investigator Pitman B. Potter is well-positioned to coordinate activities between these units. Dr. Potter is an internationally recognized expert on China, with particular experience in human rights and international trade dispute resolution. He has over twenty years of personal and professional relationships with the collaborators across Canada and Asia. Other Canadian team members are similarly situated to achieve research results and to enable effective dissemination to organizations such as the Canadian government and NGO’s. York University’s interdisciplinary Centre for Public Policy and Law under the direction of co-investigator Dr. Lesley Jacobs plays a key role as the locus for the Canada Research Team. Dr. Jacobs’ expertise in interdisciplinary studies of legal compliance behavior and his contributions to our Phase I project confirm the value of this linkage to the project as a whole.


Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) Law Institute in Shanghai is a leading policy research institute in China on issues of trade and human rights and enjoys close ties to the Shanghai municipal government. The team leaders will be Dr. Gu Xiaorong, Director and Associate Director of the Law Institute. SASS has been particularly helpful in collaborative research with UBC Law Faculty and the Institute of Asian Research since 1993. SASS has been our China partner in Phase I and in 2007 was the local partner in the IAR’s Summer Institute China Program. SASS will take particular responsibility for the China research activities, with support available as need from other Shanghai institutions such as the East China University of Politics and Law and the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP).


In light of the importance of local cultural norms in conducting research on attitudes and practices in Japan, local researchers are essential to the success of the research project. Dr. Yoshitaka Wada, Professor of Legal Sociology at Waseda University, directs research in dispute resolution projects in Japan and in connection with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A leading scholar in international and comparative law, Dr. Wada is an essential participant in the project and will lead the Japan country team. Participation by Waseda University will also facilitate access by project scholars to other Japan-based trade and human rights dispute resolution specialists for spin-off research projects, so as to expand the project network.

India and Indonesia

Just as our initial MCRI project built long term collaborative relationships between the institutions in our research network, this proposed project will build on these collaborations and extend them to Indonesia and India. In particular we are partnering with Gadjah Madah University in Indonesia and the Delhi School of Economics and the Indian Statistical Institute in India, and anticipate that this project will produce sufficiently exciting research findings that long term collaboration will result.


Melbourne University has particular strength in dispute resolution and Asian law, with long-standing personal and institutional ties to UBC. Professor Sarah Biddulph is an internationally recognized specialist on trade and human rights issues involving China.


This MCRI project will generate policy proposals for building treaty compliance programs, processes and institutions that are more responsive to cross-cultural differences and aim to resolve and where possible prevent disputes over trade and human rights. The results of the research will enable interdisciplinary scholars and policymakers in Canada and internationally to understand better the requirements for coordinated compliance with international trade and human rights standards.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

Asia Pacific Dispute Resolution

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