Workers' Rights and Global Trade_Essay

Workers' Rights and Global Trade_Essay - Workers Rights and...

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Workers’ Rights and Global Trade A modified version of this paper appeared in The International Economy (January/February 2001) At its 1999 Seattle meeting, the World Trade Organization (WTO) failed to launch a comprehensive round of multilateral negotiations, because members could not agree on an agenda. For example, the United States and European Union (EU) would like talks on workers’ rights and environmental standards but are opposed by developing countries. The EU is seeking a competition policy agreement but is opposed by the United States. Many developing countries would like to roll back Uruguay Round commitments regarding intellectual property but are opposed by the United States. The purpose of WTO is to promote trade that raises incomes and growth in both industrialized and developing countries. Workers’ rights is just one area where some governments see stronger international rules as enhancing the benefits of globalization, while others view them as threatening their development prospects. For each contentious issue, governments should ask: Can members agree on standards for national governments' policies and practices? Would better compliance with these standards promote trade that raises incomes and growth? Are violations of these standards significantly affecting trade? Would applying WTO dispute settlement to complaints about derogations from these standards promote trade that raises incomes and growth? Is the WTO the most appropriate effective forum for these problems? The WTO and Relevant International Law Since 1948, the WTO system has evolved from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which focused on tariffs and quotas, into a capacious system of public international law, regulating many aspects of national industrial policy having international competitive consequences. Although the legal protections workers enjoy in one or several countries can importantly affect the competitiveness of industries and workers in other countries, no WTO agreement addresses the general rights of workers, such as the right to unionize. In parallel, a system of international human rights law has emerged obligating governments to protect certain civil, economic and social rights. In this context, certain “core workers' rights” or “core labor standards” have achieved near universal recognition, as witnessed, for example, by the near universal government participation in the 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights, and the 1998 International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and surveillance program.
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These rights are: the prohibition of exploitative forms of child labor, forced labor and discrimination in employment, and freedom of association and collective bargaining. Eight ILO Conventions address these core rights in specific detail; however, many
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This essay was uploaded on 02/20/2009 for the course ILRIC 6340 taught by Professor Compal during the Fall '07 term at Cornell University (Engineering School).

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Workers' Rights and Global Trade_Essay - Workers Rights and...

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