Labour Standards in International Trade Agreements: An Assessment of The Arguments
International Journal of Human Resource Management, Vol. 10, No. 2, April 1999
25 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2006 Last revised: 12 Apr 2014
Date Written: December 1, 1998
In the 1980s and 1990s organized labour in industrialized countries was hit by the demise of traditional manufacturing industries, the ever-expanding globalization of the economy and the ideological dominance of economic liberalism and free trade. Support for the introduction of labour standards in the world trade regime grew out of these conditions. This paper introduces an analytical framework for the study of labour standards in international trade agreements (LSITA) and provides a detailed examination of the individuals and organizations involved in the debate and an analysis of their arguments and activities. Experiences of LSITA fall into four categories: (i) unilateral: child and prison labour legislation and corporate codes of conduct; (ii) bilateral: the GSP programmes; (iii) multilateral: attempts in the GATT/WTO; and (iv) regional: the Social Charter of the EU and the labour side agreement of NAFTA.In the opposition group are neoclassical economists and free trade theorists; major international employers; and some Third World governments and economic elites.Among the proponents belong neo-Keynesians and neo-institutionalists; 'ethical' international employers; trade unions; the ILO; governments and politicians in industrialized countries; and a plethora of NGOs and individual activists.
Keywords: Labour standards in international trade, workers' rights, social clause in trade
JEL Classification: J50, J59, L59, N30, O19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
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By Anke Hassel