Volume 40 (2006) / Issue 4
This article addresses the development and enforcement of labour standards in US and EU FTAs and non-reciprocal preferential trading arrangements. It is clear that since the emergence of a consensus at the WTO Singapore Ministerial Conference in 1996 labour standards issues should not be part of the multilateral trade agenda and should be dealt with at the ILO that the United States, in particular, has pursued a bilateral track on labour standards. The gradually escalating obligation on trade related labour standards in bilateral US FTAs, starting with NAFTA and culminating in the recently completed US-CAFTA, now provide explicitly for dispute settlement mechanisms by direct referral to a WTO Panel. Developing countries were amongst the most vigorous opponents of the introduction of labour standards and sought and achieved the apparent WTO consensus at Singapore. Some developing countries have now in fact agreed to labour standards that are now more onerous than would have been the case had the WTO agreed to discipline these standards and limit them to the ILO’s core labour standards.
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