Linking labor rights and trade in the World Trade Organization

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University of Delaware
Globalization has jeopardized the plight of workers in developing nations, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) has proven largely ineffective in remedying the situation. As a result, there has been heavy debate over using the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a forum to promote labor standards. This thesis analyzes the debate over making trade conditional upon the observance of labor standards in the WTO, a concept referred to as “linkage.” It is argued that the linkage debate has stalled theoretically, as the answers to certain crucial questions remain elusive, and practically, as a coalition of developing nations have successfully kept linkage off of the WTO agenda. Nevertheless, trade has been linked to labor standards among certain WTO members, albeit outside of the WTO, through vehicles such as bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) and generalized system of preferences (GSP) schemes. The result is ironic: proponents of linkage have generally focused on bringing the WTO on board the linkage project; yet linkage is being achieved by keeping the WTO out of the way.
World Trade Organization
Employee rights
International trade