Three perspectives on international trade are present in current debates. From the first perspective, trade is regarded as a set of individual transactions among consenting parties and considerations of fairness and justice barely feature, if at all. The second perspective underlines the importance of background structures for trade, maintained by states, which gives rise considerations of fairness and justice. One prominent version of this perspective, for example as defended by Aaron James, views all trading states as having in principle equal claims to the gains from trade. A third perspective puts the focus on exploitation. In this special issue, Mathias Risse and Gabriel Wollner claim that the first perspective should be abandoned and that the type of approach that is instantiated by James fails. This article does not follow them in dismissing the second perspective in its entirety. It suggests that there is a different version of this perspective that is defensible and develops key elements of that version. In a second step, the article seeks to show that, even if there were no plausible account of fairly dividing gains from trade among states, fairness in trade would still generate demanding normative requirements – that can be and should be integrated into a theory of global justice.