Project without external funding

Effektivität von Sozial- und Umweltklauseln in Handelsverträgen

Project Details
Project duration: 12/200802/2009

While Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) of both, the United States and the European Union, include labour issues in specific chapters, only US FTAs explicitly have "labour chapters," while the EU FTAs have a general reference to labour rights through the human rights clause and otherwise refer to labour issues in chapters on "social aspects". Clearly, the US prioritizes labour issues over general human rights or social concerns, while the EU has a broader focus, embracing human rights and sustainable development issues. Based on congressional and civil society pressure, the US also provides clear avenues for sanctions, making labour issues actionable under regular dispute settlement processes. In contrast, the EU adopts a more nuanced approach, signalling a preference against sanctions and for dialogue and capacity-building. The EU social chapters are not enforceable. However, even though US labour provisions are more focused and subject to regular dispute settlement processes, the language of these respective paragraphs used to be rather vague. In addition, avoiding enforcement through sanctions is clearly also the preference of subsequent US administrations, and thus, in the end the enforcement performance of the two is not very different.

Most of the US FTA labour chapters provide room for public participation, which is denied in EU chapters. But both, the US and EU provide assistance to strengthen the capacity of its trading partners to promote respect for core labour standards and/or democratic principles.

With few exceptions the signing of labour chapters has not been followed by tangible improvements in labour rights and standards. As US and EU leverage arguably is highest during the negotiations of an FTA, the strengthening of labour rights happens mainly during negotiations for trade agreements. Improvements remain basically at the level of the national law with few efforts directed at the enforcement of labour laws through ministries and courts.

Research Areas

Last updated on 2017-11-07 at 13:40