The Uruguay Round and Beyond
Edited by Ramesh Adhikari and Prema-chandra Athukorala
Chapter 6 11/2/02 1:15 pm Page 1 6. Labour standards, social labels and the WTO Arnab K. Basu, Nancy H. Chau and Ulrike Grote The collapse of trade negotiations in Seattle in December 1999 has brought social dimensions to the forefront of post-UR multilateral trade talks. While the anti-globalization lobbies in the industrial countries have intensified their demands for including minimum labour standards relating to working hours, workplace safety and employment of women and children in WTO trade rules, the developing countries strongly oppose these demands and condemn the clamour for labour standards as disguised protectionism. Developing countries claim that labour-related issues are best left under the auspices of the ILO, which has been attempting to protect the rights and safety of workers in general, and of children in particular, through United Nations conventions. This chapter reviews the broader issues related to the demand for including minimum labour standards in the form of a social clause in the WTO Agreement. It also analyses whether social labelling - attaching labels or certificates to products that have been produced under ‘acceptable’ working conditions - offers an alternative to the direct imposition of labour standards. The discussion on social labelling focuses on three key issues. First, do the developing countries have an incentive to advocate or initiate social labelling, particularly if the industrial countries continue to threaten to impose sanctions against unlabelled products? Second, who should bear the cost of monitoring social labelling - the industrial countries where major consumer markets are...
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