When (Not) to Trade with Autocrats: Complicity, Exploitation, and Human Rights

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Transnational trade is at the heart of the global economy. Trade relations often transcend both ideological divides and regime type. Trading with autocratic regimes, however, raises significant moral issues. In their recent book, On Trade Justice, Mathias Risse and Gabriel Wollner argue that trade with autocratic regimes is morally permissible only under a very limited set of circumstances. This article discusses the morally permissible trade policies that liberal democracies ought to adopt toward autocratic regimes. Liberal democracies trading with autocratic regimes have a special obligation to improve the human rights conditions in these regimes. This duty is partly based on their complicity in human rights violations and on the fact that the democracies benefit from these violations in their trading relationships. Their responsibility goes beyond the improvement of labor conditions and requires various strategies such as imposing trade sanctions and export controls, and making trade conditional on human rights performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-88
Number of pages20
JournalMoral Philosophy and Politics
Issue number1
Early online date2 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • autocratic regimes
  • complicity
  • exploitation
  • human rights
  • trade justice


Dive into the research topics of 'When (Not) to Trade with Autocrats: Complicity, Exploitation, and Human Rights'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this