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Labor Standards and the Free Trade Area of the Americas


  • Kimberly Ann Elliott

    () (Peterson Institute for International Economics)


Relatively little controversy surrounds three of the four core labor standards - forced labor, discrimination, and child labor. But the right to associate and organize freely and to bargain collectively is more controversial. And the use of trade sanctions to enforce labor standards is most divisive of all. In the context of trade negotiations, attention to labor issues can lower adjustment costs, slow a race to the bottom from the bottom, among developing countries themselves, and increase political support for trade agreements in developed countries. Elliott suggests using a parallel track to negotiate labor issues and link progress in those negotiations more closely to the trade negotiations. She concludes that nothing is to be gained by workers and labor activists keeping sanctions to enforce standards in trade agreements as the focus of their demands. Instead, they should ratchet up the pressure on governments to adopt concrete plans of action for raising labor standards and to finance implementation of those plans.

Suggested Citation

  • Kimberly Ann Elliott, 2003. "Labor Standards and the Free Trade Area of the Americas," Working Paper Series WP03-7, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:iie:wpaper:wp03-7

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Nancy H. Chau & Ravi Kanbur, 2006. "The Race to the Bottom, from the Bottom," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(290), pages 193-228, May.
    2. 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.
    3. Toke Aidt & Zafiris Tzannatos, 2002. "Unions and Collective Bargaining : Economic Effects in a Global Environment," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15241.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ilo:ilowps:470016 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. KAMATA Isao, 2014. "Regional Trade Agreements with Labor Clauses: Effects on labor standards and trade," Discussion papers 14012, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    3. repec:dau:papers:123456789/3202 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • J80 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - General


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