Increasing number of labour provisions in trade agreements don't hamper business: UN study

Trade in Cambodia’s ports: products from Viet Nam arrive at the Phnom Penh Autonomous port in Kandal province. Photo: World Bank/Chhor Sokunthea

18 July 2016 – Trade-related labour provisions, such as ones that address labour relations or minimum working conditions for employees, do not harm business or make trade provisions less popular, according to a study released today by the United Nations labour agency.

Research from the UN International Labour Oranization (ILO) found that a trade agreement which included labour provisions raised the value of trade by 28 per cent on average, as compared with 26 per cent for a similar agreement without the labour provision.

“It is increasingly common for new trade agreements to include labour provisions,” said Marva Corley, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the report.

“As of December 2015, there were 76 trade agreements in place (covering 135 economies) that include labour provisions, nearly half of which were concluded after 2008. Over 80 per cent of agreements that came into force since 2013 contain such provisions,” she added.

The ILO Growth with Equity report entitled “Assessment of labour provisions in trade and investment arrangements” also found that labour provisions support labour market access, particularly for working-age women.

In the future, the UN agency encourages trade negotiations to become less opaque by involving stakeholders, especially the social partners – and not just governments – in the making and implementation of labour provisions in trade agreements.


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