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Towards work liberalization: the WTO discourse on labour standards and policy

Towards work liberalization: the WTO discourse on labour standards and policy
Towards work liberalization: the WTO discourse on labour standards and policy
After the rejection of any inclusion of a social clause in the World Trade Organization agreements, the 1996 Singapore Declaration formally separated the organisational remits for labour and trade in international law. Since then the WTO has been reticent in addressing labour-related issues in multilateral fora, thereby distancing itself from social concerns intimately related to the international trade of goods and services. However, a close reading of the World Trade Reports between 2003 and 2017 shows that the WTO addresses labour standards and policy extensively. The WTO discourse advances specific views on how international trade interrelates with labour standards, labour market policy, migrant workers, unemployment benefits, workers’ skills and social protection. This paper shows that the WTO Secretariat, through its reports, strongly links the success of its agenda to deregulatory reforms in labour market policy and labour standards. Against this background the paper argues that the crisis of the WTO today, rather than being caused externally by a protectionist turn, is rooted in the failure of the international trade system to sufficiently engage with social concerns.
WTO, ILO, Singapore Declaration, World Trade Report, labour rights, international labour standards.
0952-617X
455-482
Delgado, Natalia
f1907d8d-1b42-424b-ac4c-772be61fb47c
Delgado, Natalia
f1907d8d-1b42-424b-ac4c-772be61fb47c

Delgado, Natalia (2019) Towards work liberalization: the WTO discourse on labour standards and policy. International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, 35 (4), 455-482.

Record type: Article

Abstract

After the rejection of any inclusion of a social clause in the World Trade Organization agreements, the 1996 Singapore Declaration formally separated the organisational remits for labour and trade in international law. Since then the WTO has been reticent in addressing labour-related issues in multilateral fora, thereby distancing itself from social concerns intimately related to the international trade of goods and services. However, a close reading of the World Trade Reports between 2003 and 2017 shows that the WTO addresses labour standards and policy extensively. The WTO discourse advances specific views on how international trade interrelates with labour standards, labour market policy, migrant workers, unemployment benefits, workers’ skills and social protection. This paper shows that the WTO Secretariat, through its reports, strongly links the success of its agenda to deregulatory reforms in labour market policy and labour standards. Against this background the paper argues that the crisis of the WTO today, rather than being caused externally by a protectionist turn, is rooted in the failure of the international trade system to sufficiently engage with social concerns.

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Accepted/In Press date: 3 September 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 1 December 2019
Published date: 1 December 2019
Keywords: WTO, ILO, Singapore Declaration, World Trade Report, labour rights, international labour standards.

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 433998
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/433998
ISSN: 0952-617X
PURE UUID: a43dbf4e-c333-415c-b0a0-94f77bb76a3d
ORCID for Natalia Delgado: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-7163-2804

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Date deposited: 10 Sep 2019 16:30
Last modified: 24 Feb 2021 02:55

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