Toward Responsible and Coherent Regulatory Frameworks
Edited by Clair Gammage and Tonia Novitz
Chapter 4: Increasing the social sustainability of trade agreements in terms of labour standards: insights from the TPP experience
The question of how to make trade agreements conducive to sustainable development has gained attention among academics, policy makers and civil society actors in recent years. These agreements have been subject to heightened scrutiny by the public as concerns spread that trade negotiators unduly prioritize economic gains for certain groups at the expense of other societal objectives. The need to rethink the design of trade agreements in terms of both environmental and social sustainability is exacerbated by the fact that such agreements increasingly go beyond trade in goods and services and reach into a vast number of economic governance issues. This concern has gained further prominence in the face of increased political opposition to so-called ‘mega-regional trade agreements’. A key challenge in terms of rendering trade agreements more socially sustainable lies in ensuring that they safeguard rather than hamper decent employment conditions. This chapter takes stock of the sustainable development discourse and elaborates on the issue of trade and labour standards. It then turns to the legal arrangements under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and analyses them against the backdrop of earlier trade agreements. The argument is put forward that while the TPP contains several innovative elements in comparison to earlier trade agreements, the approach to labour standards protection is overall fragmentary and remains embryonic on several fronts. In this light, the chapter outlines components for a more comprehensive approach to labour standards protection with regard to trade agreements.
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