Trade and Labour Standards: A Review of the Issues
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Fields, Gary S.
[Excerpt] This is a paper by a labour economist for trade specialists. It is written at a time of hope tempered by fear. On the trade side, the hope is that the new World Trade Organisation will stimulate a better trading environment for all countries. On the labour side, the hope is that labour standards can continually be improved for most if not all of the world's working people. But there are also fears. One fear is that these goals may be difficult to achieve simultaneously. Another is that they may be undone by various pressures, including issues left unresolved in the Uruguay Round of the GATT. Trade and labour market policies are continuously being discussed and reformulated. Strangely enough, much of this debate takes place in the absence of clearly-articulated goals. The reasons, it would seem, are twofold. On the one hand, for some analysts, the goals (e.g. freer trade, workers' rights) are held to be self-evident. On the other hand, the goals are themselves sometimes hard to pinpoint. When does "free trade" give way to "fair trade"? When does the pursuit of one labour standard (e.g. free collective bargaining) take precedence over another (e.g. full employment)?
trade; labor standards; labor market; labor rights; fair trade; employment
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