Labor Standards and the Free Trade Area of the Americas

28 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2003

See all articles by Kimberly Ann Elliott

Kimberly Ann Elliott

Center for Global Development; Institute for International Economics

Date Written: July 2003


Relatively little controversy surrounds three of the four core labor standards - forced labor, discrimination, and child labor. But the right to associate and organize freely and to bargain collectively is more controversial. And the use of trade sanctions to enforce labor standards is most divisive of all. In the context of trade negotiations, attention to labor issues can lower adjustment costs, slow a race to the bottom from the bottom, among developing countries themselves, and increase political support for trade agreements in developed countries. Elliott suggests using a parallel track to negotiate labor issues and link progress in those negotiations more closely to the trade negotiations. She concludes that nothing is to be gained by workers and labor activists keeping sanctions to enforce standards in trade agreements as the focus of their demands. Instead, they should ratchet up the pressure on governments to adopt concrete plans of action for raising labor standards and to finance implementation of those plans.

JEL Classification: F13, J80

Suggested Citation

Elliott, Kimberly Ann, Labor Standards and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (July 2003). Available at SSRN: or

Kimberly Ann Elliott (Contact Author)

Center for Global Development

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1903
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics