Negotiating dignified work : the case of labour rights provisions in Free Trade Agreements celebrated by the European Union

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Ferreira, Mariana : Gonçalves Felgar
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Globalization has transformed the geography of world production and increased the number global supply chains that define the configuration of world trade. Among some of the effects of trade expansion are a new division of labour and an increased pressure on labour standards, with labour rights being an hot-topic out of the agenda of the World Trade Organization. This thesis analyzes the efforts of the European Union to include the protection of labour rights in its trade policy through the so-called labour rights provisions in Free Trade Agreements, by specifically studying their effectiveness and shortcomings. The central chapters of the thesis focus on an assessment of the effectiveness of labour provisions in two chosen cases, namely the Free Trade Agreements between South-Korea and Vietnam. In both situations labour provisions have revealed to be fuzzy in their words and weak in their enforcement mechanisms. We defend that the structural failure of such clauses reflects and is a result of the political subordination of labour rights to trade concerns. The next pages will also suggest a more effective model that would not only ensure victim participation and accountability, but also strengthen the legitimacy of EU’s values-based trade policy. In line with this model, we defend that in the long run labour provisions should be part of a wider reflection on how to make the multilateral global trade system a tool for sustainable development that delivers to every human being and is centered on the dignity of decent work.
Second semester University: University of Graz
labour, working conditions, globalisation, free trade, World Trade Organisation, European Union, South Korea, Vietnam, dignity