Working Beyond the Border? A New Research Agenda for the Evaluation of Labour Standards in EU Trade Agreements
17 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2014 Last revised: 17 Jun 2014
Date Written: April 4, 2014
The European Union has approximately 50 bilateral trade agreements in place with partners across the world, and more than 20 more that are at various stages of the negotiating process. These trading arrangements comprise an ever-increasing amount of the EU’s trade with partner countries – over half its total external trade. At the same time, the EU has also embraced a more ambitious kind of agreement which has moved far beyond the reduction of tariff barriers and has involved the inclusion of a wider range of regulatory measures. In its recent trade agreements, the EU has included a ‘Trade and Sustainable Development’ chapter, which has, among other things, contained obligations in relation to labour standards. These labour standards provisions follow a common model (with limited variations) and adopt an approach which has been described as ‘promotional’ rather than ‘conditional’.
This paper examines the progressive possibilities and potential limitations of the EU’s new provisions on labour standards, in the context of the broader debate about the purpose and efficacy of labour and trade linkage. The review also highlights the limited empirical research on the impact of labour standards ‘on the ground’ in different countries with respect to different types of agreements, and why this is problematic. The paper then makes proposals for a research agenda that can fill this gap, involving fieldwork in countries now subject to this new breed of EU bilateralism, thus exploring externalisation from the outside-in.
Keywords: Key Words: Trade agreement, labour standards, European Union, sustainable development, normative power, soft law
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