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What Are the Issues in Using Trade Agreements for Improving International Labor Standards?

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  • Andrew G. Brown
  • Robert M. Stern

    ()
    (Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan)

Abstract

This paper addresses the issues of whether the linking of core labor standards with multilateral or bilateral trade agreements is an effective way of promoting the improvement of labor standards. We review the determinants of core labor standards over time and conclude that efforts to improve these standards have to be tailored to the economic and social circumstances prevailing in a country at a specific time. Legalistic means to prod governments into revising their domestic laws or enforcing them will therefore be unsuccessful unless economic incentives can be changed to erode prevailing social norms and ease the way for the acceptance of new norms that will meet with public approval and be consonant with the distribution of political power. Moral suasion from both domestic and external sources may work more slowly than more legalistic means but is preferred because it contributes to altering the social norms that underlie and will reinforce the acceptance and effectiveness of labor standards.

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File URL: http://fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/workingpapers/Papers551-575/r558.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan in its series Working Papers with number 558.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mie:wpaper:558

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Postal: ANN ARBOR MICHIGAN 48109
Web page: http://www.fordschool.umich.edu/rsie/
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Keywords: International labor standards; social norms; trade agreements;

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  1. Simeon Djankov & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silane & Andrei Shleifer & Juan Botero, 2003. "The Regulation of Labor," NBER Working Papers 9756, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Dani Rodrik, 1997. "Has Globalization Gone Too Far?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 57.
  3. Agell, J., 1998. "On the Benefits from Rigid Labour Markets: Norms, Market Failures, and Social Insurance," Papers 1998:17, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  4. Edmonds, Eric V., 2007. "Child Labor," IZA Discussion Papers 2606, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Peter Lindert, 2004. "Social Spending and Economic Growth," Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 47(4), pages 6-16, July.
  6. Assar Lindbeck & Sten Nyberg & Jšrgen W. Weibull, 1999. "Social Norms And Economic Incentives In The Welfare State," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-35, February.
  7. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, September.
  8. Akerlof, George A, 1980. "A Theory of Social Custom, of Which Unemployment May be One Consequence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(4), pages 749-75, June.
  9. Drusilla K. Brown & Alan V. Deardorff & Robert M. Stern, 2001. "Child Labor: Theory, Evidence and Policy," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0111, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  10. Kimberly Ann Elliott & Richard B. Freeman, 2003. "Can Labor Standards Improve under Globalization?," Peterson Institute Press: All Books, Peterson Institute for International Economics, number 338.
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