Core Labour Standards in Trade Agreements : From Multilateralism to Bilateralism.
INTERNATIONAL Labour Organisation
LABOR laws & legislation
Croissance et développement économiques
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AbstractAlthough discussion concerning the inclusion of core labour standards has been excluded from the Doha agenda, the question continues to be debated. In fact, on an international level, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has become increasingly active since the World Trade Organization (WTO) Singapore Ministerial Declaration. On a regional level, social clauses are now being introduced inside preferential-trade agreements. These evolutions feed the debate regarding the link between labour standards and trade. This article takes a closer look at this debate and re-assesses the traditional economic analysis, which is today more sophisticated and balanced than was the case a few years ago. Improving labour standards, in association with trade openness, might speed up development. However, governments do not necessarily choose the best way to promote social and economic development. This fact can be explained by political economic analysis. In this article, we weigh the pro- and anti-social clause arguments of interest groups both within developed and developing countries, to explain national choices concerning labour standards. The issue also concerns the stability of international trade relations. We stress that although they are excluded from multilateral arrangements, core labour standards provisions are omnipresent in bilateral or regional preferential-trade agreements. This paradox is likely to jeopardize the multilateral system. Putting aside ethical or moral considerations, we show that economic arguments can possibly allow the inclusion of a non-protectionist, realistic and reasonable trade-labour linkage. We conclude that the inclusion of such a clause in multilateral trade law is less dangerous than its non-inclusion.
TypeArticle accepté pour publication ou publié