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Labor clauses in regional trade agreements and effects on labor conditions : an empirical analysis


  • Kamata, Isao


An increasing number of bilateral or plurilateral trade agreements (or regional trade agreements: RTAs) include "labor clauses" that require or urge the signatory countries to commit to maintaining a certain level of labor standards. This paper performs an empirical analysis of the impacts of such labor clauses provided in RTAs on working conditions that laborers in the RTA signatory countries actually face, using macro-level data for a wide variety of countries. The paper first examines the texts of labor provisions in more than 220 effective RTAs and (re-)classifies "RTAs with labor clauses" according to two criteria: (i) the agreement urges or expects the signatory countries to harmonize their domestic labor standards with internationally recognized standards, and (ii) the agreement stipulates the procedures for consultations and/or dispute settlement on labor-condition issues between the signatory countries. Based on this labor-clause RTA classification, the paper estimates the impacts of RTA labor clauses on working conditions in countries with two empirical specifications using the sample covering 136 countries or economies and years from 1995 through 2011. The estimation is extended to takes into account possible lags in the labor-condition effects of labor clauses as well as to consider potential difference in the impacts for countries in different income levels. The empirical results for the four measures of labor conditions (mean monthly real earnings, mean weekly work hours per employee, fatal occupational injury rate, and the number of the ILO's Core Conventions ratified) find no evidence for possible pro-labor-condition effects of RTA labor clauses overall, which should be consistent with the view of economics literature that questions the relevance of linking trade policy with issues in the domestic labor standards.

Suggested Citation

  • Kamata, Isao, 2016. "Labor clauses in regional trade agreements and effects on labor conditions : an empirical analysis," IDE Discussion Papers 609, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
  • Handle: RePEc:jet:dpaper:dpaper609

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edmonds, Eric V. & Pavcnik, Nina, 2006. "International trade and child labor: Cross-country evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 115-140, January.
    2. Vivek H. Dehejia & Yiagadeesen Samy, 2007. "Trade and Labor Standards: A Review of the Theory and New Empirical Evidence," Carleton Economic Papers 07-12, Carleton University, Department of Economics.
    3. Huberman, Michael & Lewchuk, Wayne, 2003. "European economic integration and the labour compact, 1850–1913," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(1), pages 3-41, April.
    4. Lippoldt, Douglas, 2013. "Policy Priorities for International Trade and Jobs," 2013: Employment, Immigration and Trade, December 15-17, 2013, Clearwater Beach, Florida 182509, International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium.
    5. Vivek Dehejia & Yiagadeesen Samy, 2004. "Trade and labour standards: theory and new empirical evidence," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(2), pages 179-198.
    6. Spagnolo, Giancarlo, 2001. "Issue Linkage, Credible Delegation, and Policy Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 2778, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Martin, Will & Maskus, Keith E, 2001. "Core Labor Standards and Competitiveness: Implications for Global Trade Policy," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(2), pages 317-328, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kamata, Isao, 2018. "Can RTA labor provisions prevent the deterioration of domestic labor standards? : the cases of statutory minimum wages and employment protection regulations," IDE Discussion Papers 716, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan External Trade Organization(JETRO).
    2. Damian Raess & Andreas Dür & Dora Sari, 2018. "Protecting labor rights in preferential trade agreements: The role of trade unions, left governments, and skilled labor," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 143-162, June.

    More about this item


    Labor conditions; International trade; International agreements; Regional trade agreements; Labor standards; Labor clauses;

    JEL classification:

    • F13 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations
    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions
    • J81 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Working Conditions
    • J88 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Public Policy
    • F66 - International Economics - - Economic Impacts of Globalization - - - Labor

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