Trade and International Labor Standards: The WTO

At the multilateral level, Trade Ministers of the WTO Member Countries addressed the issue of trade and international labor standards in the Singapore Ministerial Declaration. In this document, adopted on December 13, 1996, Ministers declared:

We renew our commitment to the observance of internationally recognized core labor standards. The International Labor Organization (ILO) is the competent body to set and deal with these standards, and we affirm our support for its work in promoting them. We believe that economic growth and development fostered by increased trade and further trade liberalization contribute to the promotion of these standards. We reject the use of labor standards for protectionist purposes, and agree that the comparative advantage of countries, particularly low-wage developing countries, must in no way be put into question. In this regard, we note that the WTO and ILO Secretariats will continue their existing collaboration.

This issue of core labor standards was raised at the Ministerial Conferences in Seattle and Doha. The Doha Declaration, adopted on November 14, 2001, reaffirmed the Singapore Declaration in the following terms:

We reaffirm our declaration made at the Singapore Ministerial Conference regarding internationally recognized core labour standards. We take note of work under way in the International Labor Organization (ILO) on the social dimension of globalization.

The Secretariat of the WTO maintains contact with the ILO at the technical level, which includes gathering statistics, preparation of studies and provision of technical assistance.


Source: World Trade Organization Offsite link!


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Trade and International Standards