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Regional Trade Agreements and the Spread of International Labour Standards

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In the last two decades, international trade agreements have driven growing economic integration increasingly inclusive of social and labour provisions. This article investigates the link between labour clauses in trade agreements and national labour standards, comparing their effects on the ratification of ILO conventions and worker rights practices. An empirical estimation using panel data for 141 countries from 1980 to 2013 suggests that labour provisions have not played a significant role in the improvement of labour practices, and that their effect has been limited to the ratification of ILO conventions. This gap highlights the importance of mechanisms that guarantee the enforceability of labour clauses included in trade agreements.

Image: © IRD - Barrière, Olivier