Governing Labour Standards through Free Trade Agreements: Limits of the European Union’s Trade and Sustainable Development Chapters
Journal of Common Market Studies
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The EU has established a new architecture of international labour standards governance within the Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters of its Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). To examine the operationalization of this framework, we draw upon 121 interviews undertaken with key informants in three FTAs signed with the Caribbean, South Korea and Moldova. We engage with wider debates over external governance and the projection of EU power by showing how operational failings, including a lack of legal and political prioritization of TSD chapters and shortcomings in the implementation of key provisions, have hindered the impact of the FTAs upon labour standards. We also identify significant limitations to the EU’s ‘common formulation’ approach when applied to different trading partner contexts, alongside ambiguities about the underlying purpose of the trade–labour linkage. Reflection about the function and purpose of labour standards provisions in EU trade policy is therefore required.