Free Trade Agreements and Labour Rights

Since the beginning of the 1990’s, the need to create a minimum social foundation for the development of trade - one that guarantees certain safeguards against social dumping – has resulted in the signing of an increasing number of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which include a labour dimension, either in the agreement itself or in a parallel agreement.

Not only do such labour clauses list minimum commitments for the protection of human rights at work and refer to specific international labour standards adopted by the ILO, but they also provide for conflict resolution systems as well as funds and parallel labour cooperation/consultation. Indeed, a growing number of bilateral free trade agreements – particularly those signed by Canada, the United States and the European Union – contain social and labour provisions along those lines.

This section of the International Labour Standards website is dedicated to providing information on the issue of FTAs and labour rights and making available the full text of some major FTAs. It also provides the FTAs respective social chapters along with information, analysis, publications and articles concerning this issue.

Furthermore, this section now links to the new Labour Provisions in Trade Agreements Hub of the ILO’s RESEARCH Department that was launched in January 2022. The Hub allows users to navigate and analyse labour provisions in trade agreements through an interactive world map, trend graphs and tables with text.