Adopting the view that a more active participation of indigenous peoples in the trade of their knowledge assets would promote their socioeconomic development raises difficult questions of legitimacy and method. Questions of legitimacy are posed by the potentially modernising effects of development endangering traditional ways of indigenous peoples’ social organisation. Questions of method arise when studying how international law, including international economic law, could better contribute to furthering the development interests of indigenous peoples in the trade of indigenous cultural heritage (ICH). There will be many areas where modern law and indigenous custom collide. These questions are the focus of the first part of the paper. The second part studies international law’s potential to stimulate ICH trade for the sake of indigenous socioeconomic development. To this end, it first assesses how interests of indigenous peoples in trade and development of ICH are currently institutionalised in international economic law. The paper then examines whether preferential trade rules for indigenous cultural goods and services would be an adequate tool to advance the interests of indigenous peoples in ICH trade and development.