Taking Interdependence Seriously: Trade, Essential Supplies, and the International Division of Labour in COVID-19

Tadhg Ó Laoghaire


COVID-19 knows no boundaries, but political responses to it certainly do. Much has been made about how the pandemic has revealed the Hobbesian nature of political power, but this picture of politics occludes from vision the interdependent nature of our current international order. In particular, it overlooks the fact that much of the goods, services, capital, and people that societies rely on in order to function are sourced from outside the domestic state. And, conversely, it overlooks the extent to which the policy responses taken in one state have considerable effects on the options available, and the outcomes suffered, in other jurisdictions. This paper seeks to correct this oversight, by highlighting two duties that states bear towards one another in the context of this crisis, by virtue of their participation in international trade relationships. Trade grounds duties of justice between trade partners by making them dependent upon one another in order to realize their respective duties of domestic justice. This dependence, in turn, grounds a duty of stability, and a duty of accountability. Having explained and argued for these two duties, the paper discusses the implications of taking these two duties seriously in the context of states’ policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis.


trade; international justice; dependence; COVID-19; stability; accounttability; essential goods; division of labour; priority; supply chains.

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ISSN 2668-0009; ISSN-L 2668-0009