Labour provisions in trade agreements: a vehicle for Decent Work?

Nearly half of all trade agreements concluded in the past five years include either a labour chapter or labour provision that makes reference to international labour standards and ILO instruments. Are these provisions a vehicle for Decent Work? The question has been at the centre of a conference organised, in December, by the ILO where the study Assessment of Labour Provisions in Trade and Investment Arrangements was presented.

According to the ILO, the evidence so far suggests that labour provisions have been an important tool for raising awareness and improving laws and legislations with respect to workers’ rights, increasing stakeholder involvement in negotiation and implementation phases, and developing domestic institutions to better monitor and enforce labour standards.

But challenges remain…


For this reason, in the framework of the recent Ecuador’s accession to the EU's free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru, SOLIDAR – together with its member FOS as well as ASTAC, ActionAid France/Peuples solidaires, Buy Responsibly Foundation, Fair Trade Advocacy Office, Mai Bine, Oxfam Germany, and Südwind – sent a letter to members of the European Parliament

  • Reminding them that the EU's free trade agreement with Colombia and Peru includes a Trade and Sustainable Development chapter (Chapter IX), where it is indicated, among others, that “each Party commits to the promotion and effective implementation in its laws and practice and in its whole territory of internationally recognised core labour standards as contained in the fundamental Conventions of the International Labour Organisation…” such as the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining conventions (ILO Conventions N. 87 and N. 98).
  • Calling on the Members of the European Parliament, the European Commission and EU Member States in their different capacities to urge the Government of Ecuador (GoE) to take rapid and concrete steps towards the full realisation of the right to freedom of association and to organise before the EU's free trade agreement with Ecuador enters into force.
  • Asking that the EU's free trade agreement with Ecuador be linked to the full respect – by the GoE – of ILO Core Labour Standards.

Finally, in the framework of the Progressive Lab for Sustainable Development -  a joint initiative between the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D) and SOLIDAR - this same question will be raised in relation to the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and ACP countries and the revision of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement.



Photo © ILO

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