Free Trade in Labour: A New Global Space for Workers' Rights?

TitleFree Trade in Labour: A New Global Space for Workers' Rights?
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsDiLieto, Giovanni
Date Published2015///
InstitutionMFCO Working Papers Series, Special Issue: Environments, Spaces and Transformations
CityUniversity of Otago (New Zealand)
Keywordsglobal migration management, international labor standards, international trade law, migrant workers

This paper focuses on the nexus between international labor standards and international trade governance, as labor rights provisions (applicable to both local and migrant workers) are increasingly being included in free trade agreements. Nevertheless, for the past few decades, the preservation of working rights and social provisions is increasingly becoming economically unsustainable across the globe. At present, the likely directions in the global governance of labor markets stand at a historic crossroad and face urgent questions posed by the disengagement of the measure of value from the concept of labor. Barriers to human mobility facilitate capital in superseding labor as the only price discriminant in the compensation of both local workers confined to over-supplied domestic labor markets, and cross-border workers confined to a temporary or undocumented status. Over the long term, the failure in the global management of labor markets may also result in labor rights being socio-economically unsustainable, although still necessary for maintaining or improving the current levels of human development across the globe. In the absence of any value-driven dimension of labor, echoed in the decline of large-scale state-subsidized social security systems, international trade law might well be capable of becoming the strongest tidal current changing the patterns of labor governance globally and streaming through the international apparatus of working rights. The overall issue considered here revolves around the question as to whether international trade law provisions on labor rights are a solution or are inconsistent with workers’ problems globally. This is ultimately a matter related to seeking a new space for the transforming notion of labor at the intersections of law and society in a globalized environment.