Trafficking is considered to be an urgent problem of global proportions warranting a robust transnational legal response. Almost twenty years since the adoption of the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking, scholars, activists and governments alike have debated criminal law, human rights and labour law approaches to the problem. With the incorporation of trafficking in the Sustainable Development Goals, this article goes beyond these conventional approaches to argue for a development approach to trafficking. It suggests that SDG 8 cannot be achieved by rehashing older debates on development in the key of trafficking. Instead, we must account for the expanding welfare functions of the postcolonial developmental state, reimagine labour laws from the vantage point of the informal economy and protect and enforce indigenous responses to extreme exploitation rather than exacerbate the negative externalities of a carceral approach in developing world contexts where the criminal justice system is built on a colonial edifice.