Can Labor Standards Improve Under Globalization?

Front Cover
Institute for International Economics, 2003 - Business & Economics - 179 pages
Protesters now routinely fill the streets when any large, formal meeting dealing with international economic issues takes place. They express concern about the potential social and environmental costs of globalization and want negotiators to address these issues in trade agreements and international organizations. In addition, the debate over whether and how to link labor standards to trade has led to an impasse in American trade policy for much of the past decade and has tied the hands of US trade negotiators. Proposals to "let the market do it" or "let the International Labor Organization (ILO) do it" abound, but it is less common to find any serious analysis of just how activists can galvanize consumers to demand that corporations raise labor standards in their global operations or how the ILO can become more effective.

In this study, Elliott and Freeman move beyond the debate on the relative merits and risks of a social clause in trade agreements and focus on practical approaches for improving labor standards in a more integrated global economy. The authors examine both what is being done in these areas and what more needs to be done to ensure that steady and tangible progress toward universal respect for core labor standards is made. While concluding that the ILO should have primary responsibility for labor standards, the book also suggests that the WTO should consider how to address egregious and willful violations of core labor standards if they are trade related.

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About the author (2003)

Kimberly Ann Elliott, former visiting fellow, is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. She is the author or coauthor of numerous books and articles on a variety of trade policy and globalization issues. Much of her work focuses on the uses of economic leverage in international negotiations, including both economic sanctions for foreign policy goals and trade threats and sanctions in commercial disputes.

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