How international labour standards are promoted through trade policy and trade agreements

News | 20 May 2019
Marva Corley-Coulibaly, Chief of the Globalization, Competitiveness and Labour Standards unit in the ILO Research Department, participated in a stakeholder event on the modernised EU-Mexico Global Agreement.

Her intervention focussed on how international labour standards can be promoted through trade policy and specific trade agreements, such as the EU-Mexico Global Agreement.

Labour provisions in trade agreements are used by partner countries to set framework conditions for decent work. They are a governance tool and refer to labour commitments in a trade agreement, but they are also a cooperative tool for dialogue on labour issues, as well as capacity building of essential institutions.

The EU-Mexico trade agreement includes a reference to the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the ILO Decent Work Agenda, the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization and the effective ratification and implementation of the ILO Fundamental Conventions. Some important changes have been made to the agreement, including the addition of elements of occupational safety and health as well as labour inspectorates.

Ms Corley-Coulibaly also provided insight into how the ILO engages with partner countries in trade agreements, through providing technical assistance and strengthening their capacity to adhere to obligations in labour provisions. In the case of Mexico, ILO’s means of action along with trade leverage, have fostered the recently passed labour reforms that ensure legitimate collective representation, which is in line with the ratification of the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98).

Finally, the ILO’s supervisory mechanism provides monitoring and follow-up of some labour practices in partner countries, most notably the fundamental conventions.