The strategic use of the labour rights discourse – revisting the “social clause” debate in trade agreements


  • Ulf Thoene Universidad de La Sabana.


Palabras clave:

global capitalism, ILO, labour rights, social clause, trade agreements, WTO


This reflection article takes a fresh look at the neglected policy device of the so-called “social clause” in trade accords that
seeks to tame the capitalist forces dominating contemporary globalization. In many countries deregulatory policies, and the
incapacity, or in some cases unwillingness, of governments to enforce regulation to protect workers and their representatives,
have undermined labour rights. Instead, recent decades have witnessed a proliferation of free trade agreements (FTAs)
that tend to favour the interests of global corporations over the concerns of workers. This paper reinvigorates the debate on
the “social clause” in trade agreements by tracking its historical development and analysing recent, albeit feeble, attempts
that may contribute to levelling the playing field between capital and labour.


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