Trade Agreements and Labour Rights
Jeff Vogt provided two reasons for including labour standards in trade agreements. First, the absence of labour standards is as much a legitimate violation of trade rules as the lack of enforcement of intellectual property or the granting of government subsidies. Second, Vogt stressed that there are “legitimate distribution and human rights concerns that justify the imposition of labor standards on sovereign governments.” Vogt argued that labour standards in free trade agreements are not protectionist because products from developing countries do not compete with products from developed countries. In addition, enforcement and sanctions are determined “by a neutral international dispute settlement body”. In 1987 and 1988, the AFL-CIO began filing reports on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) describing labor rights violations in Asian countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, where workers do not have the freedom to organize unions or engage in collective bargaining to incite the United States. Management must respond to these violations. This has had an impact on Indonesia, Vogt explained, as the GSP reports have led to USTR reviews, prompting the Indonesian government to recognize the importance of “polishing its tarnished reputation” into workers` rights. The Indonesian government has introduced a higher minimum wage, amended its national labor law to allow independent unions to work, albeit to a limited extent, and reduced the military`s role in monitoring labor. The Committee`s approach has been seen by academic commentators as significant difficulties in securing success stories in the future.67 It has been argued that it is excessively cumbersome to call for “recurrent or sustained action or inaction” for each job complained of, rather than for an entire industry or sector.68 This decision also leads to a broader political crisis of confidence in the triggered American Model. Senior politicians and trade union representatives have argued that the outcome of the case proves that labour regulation is not feasible.69 However, there are arguably greater problems when it comes to bringing cases to dispute resolution in the first place. Of the approximately 50 complaints filed so far under U.S. free trade agreements (the vast majority of which relate to NAFTA), only the Guatemala case has entered the dispute settlement phase.70 Like the EU`s free trade agreements, the U.S. government`s lack of political will has been identified as the reason for the lack of prosecution in other cases.71 Overall, these problems have led to: that the crisis of confidence in US labour regulations has become analogous to the crisis of the EU regime.72 At the 1996 Singapore Ministerial Conference, members defined the role of the WTO in this issue and designated the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as the body responsible for negotiating labour standards.
There is no work on this subject in WTO councils and committees. However, the secretariats of the two organizations cooperate on technical issues under the banner of global economic policy coherence. The inadequacy of the EU-US model has been widely acknowledged by labour law advocates on both sides of the Atlantic. These concerns have not gone unnoticed. In both cases, efforts have been made to address labour issues more effectively through trade agreements. Although reform programmes are motivated by different factors, it can be argued that everyone suffers from the same shortcomings in one way or another. So far, only one U.S. DR CAFTA case has been brought before arbitration for Guatemala`s failure to effectively enforce its own labor law.63 Although the case was formally initiated by the United States in 2010, the dispute settlement body did not report its findings until June 2017.
The panel voted in favour of Guatemala. When the failure of law enforcement authorities affecting trade was examined separately, the Panel found no lasting or recurring course of action and therefore found no breach of obligations.66 Figure 2 also distinguishes between labour clauses with superficial obligations, such as. B trade agreements, which, in the preamble to the agreement, only commit to “improving working conditions” (e.B the Chile-Ecuador Trade Agreement 2008). and those that include robust enforcement mechanisms (p.B NAFTA) or enhanced cooperation provisions on labour issues (p.B the 2010 EC-South Korea trade agreement). The origins of the U.S. approach can be found in the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.43 NAFTA was the first U.S. trade agreement to include labor regulations, albeit in a parallel agreement.44 Since then, every free trade agreement signed by the United States has included labor regulations – maintaining a total of agreements with 20 countries.45 Provisions relating to the protection of the Labor has also become more central in U.S. free trade agreements. Since the 2004 free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore, labour rules have been set out in a special “labour chapter”.
For example, Council Decision (2014/492/EU) of 16 June 2014 on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, and provisional application of the Association Agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community and their Member States, of the one part, and the Republic of Moldova, of the other part OJ No L 260/1, Article 365 of the Chapter on Trade and Sustainability states that the EU and the Republic of Moldova “reaffirm their determination to promote the development of international trade in a manner that promotes full and productive employment and decent work for all”. Source: Raess and Sari LABPTA database. Note: “LC” includes all agreements for at least one job performance. The EU`s trade agreements have systematically included provisions on labour standards since 1999, when it concluded its agreement with South Africa.19 Its approach has gradually evolved over time and became formalised with the signing of the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement in 2010, when EU labour legislation, and environmental legislation have been consolidated into a chapter on trade and sustainable development.20 Since then, the chapter has become an integral part of EU agreements. Negotiating with its trading partners.21 For many members of the traditional business community of policymakers and academics, fears of labor standards that promote disguised protectionism have led to ambivalence about the labor rights agenda.92 If rhetoric and reality were more closely aligned, U.S. labor regulations could lead to the realization of these fears. But more attention should be paid to the potential of labour supply, which is based on a universalist vision. The diversity of possible approaches suggests the need for an individual assessment of the real impact of certain proposals, among other strategies to protect and promote the interests of workers in a globalised economy.93 Overall, such a programme should be of general interest given the threats that the current political climate poses to economic globalisation.
Even some of the strongest advocates of trade liberalization and integration are beginning to see the potential problems of general trade policy for vulnerable workers around the world. .