Some Reflections on the Human Rights Discourse in the EU-Japan Strategic Partnership Agreement

The very starting point of the EU-Japan SPA is anchored in the respect of fundamental and shared values between the Parties.

The SPA is based on a common understanding regarding the axiological importance of certain rules, which require further development in this treaty. The treaty instrument, therefore, begins with the celebration of a common vision. It can be questioned if the Asian vision of international law would have not lead to considering human rights differently from what Europeans have considered to be the unique way of conceiving them; idea that is tackled in the famous Eurocentric perspective critique.

Applying discourse analysis to the SPA provisions on human rights, we can wonder whether these articles are the product of a real attempt to distillate provisions reflecting two different visions of the same goal (the increased protection of the individual), or whether they are the replication of the EU law discourse on fundamental rights.

The EU-Japan SPA tends to demonstrate rather the latter tendency. The discursive form of its commitment to human rights law and of recognition of a necessary multi-level protection structure can lead to question if these ideas really reflect a Japanese approach towards fundamental rights. If the Eurocentric vision of international human rights law has been criticized as being problematic in many ways, we can wonder whether this hegemonic discourse can seriously be transposed to an instrument concluded with a country whose legal philosophy can be quite different. Beyond the political considerations that can explain this discourse, it could be interesting to wonder whether working more on finding the particularism of the Japanese approach to human rights would not enrich the European tradition. We may wonder whether, instead of replicating the European discourse, listening to another language on a common interest could not enrich our own idiom.

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Edoardo Stoppioni is a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Procedural Law (Luxembourg). Edoardo holds a Ph.D. in International Law from the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (2019). His thesis focused on a critical analysis of the discourse of the WTO judge and of the investment arbitrator on unwritten law. He is an Associate Editor of the Journal of World Investment & Trade and was Post-Doctoral fellow at Hitotsubashi University (Tokyo). His current research interests include critical legal theory, public international law, EU law and international dispute settlement.

Dont’miss Thursday 21 May at 8:30 a.m. ( GMT+1), next paper « EU-Japan Cooperation in the security field from the perspective of Japan’s Legal Framework »,  by Fumi Yoshimoto

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This e-conference was organised by Yumiko Nakanishi, Professor of European Union Law at the Graduate School of Law, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo, and Dr. Olivia Tambou, Associate Professor at the University of Paris-Dauphine, Editor of Blogdroiteuropeen. Special thanks to both Dr. Edoardo Stoppioni and Dr. Alessandra Donati, senior research fellows at the Max Planck Institute of Luxembourg and members of the blogdroiteuropeen team, for their contribution to the organisation of the e-conference.

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