Labour Clauses in the TPP and TTIP: A Comparison Without a Difference?
35 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2017
Date Written: 2016
This article provides a critical analysis of the labour clauses in trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (‘TPP’). This analysis is based on four dimensions of labour clauses in trade agreements: their purposes, the legal nature of the clauses (whether binding or not), the substance of legal obligations imposed and the institutional processes provided for. The analysis is also grounded in the two dominant approaches to these clauses, the European Union and the pre-Trump United States approaches: the former can be understood as proposing a broad agenda based on promotional measures while the latter is underpinned by a narrow agenda based on conditional measures. The TPP’s labour clause clearly adopts a pre-Trump US approach and the divergence between the EU and pre-Trump US approaches is highlighted by the labour clauses of the TPP and the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. However, it is unclear whether this (possible) difference in approach will translates into a difference of impact on domestic labour standards. We argue that, for a number of reasons, there may be a general orientation to non-application of labour clauses in free trade agreements such as the TPP.
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