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How China's Employment Problems Became Trade Problems: China, Labour Law, and the Rule of Law


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  • Susan Ariel Aaronson

    (Institute for International Economic Policy, George Washington University)


In this article, I focus on the potential trade spillovers of Chinese policies to maintain employment. Chinese leaders are determined to maintain employment and have long ignored employment laws that could empower workers. But in 2007, China reformed its labor laws and allowed wide public comment. The new laws enhanced protections for workers, but the consensus among scholars, NGOs, and the US State Department is that these labor laws, like earlier laws, are unevenly and rarely enforced. I argue that Chinese failure to enforce these laws breachits WTO obligations. WTO members could use GATT Article XXIII, which establishes a "right of redress" for changes in domestic policy that systematically erode market access commitments even if no explicit GATT rule has been violated. Used creatively, this strategy could enable WTO member states to encourage China to do a better job of enforcing its labour laws.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy in its series Working Papers with number 2010-11.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in NCCR Trade Regulations, 01 Feb 2010
Handle: RePEc:gwi:wpaper:2010-11

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Keywords: China; WTO; trade; labor; employment; market access;

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