This report has been prepared by the ILO Research Department as a contribution to the G7 Social Employment Task Force on “Reshaping multilateral action to strengthen social justice”, under the French G7 Presidency in 2019.
It has been 25 years since labour provisions were first included by G7 member countries in a regional trade agreement (RTA). Since then they have become a common feature of all G7 RTAs. Of the 85 bilateral or plurilateral agreements with labour provisions, more than half, or 45, include as a partner at least one G7 country. These 45 agreements represent 1.2 billion workers, which amounts to almost 30 per cent of the world’s workers. Thus, the regulatory frameworks of these trade agreements have a deep connection to the governance of the world of work.
While some countries have a longstanding tradition in their legislation and trade policy of considering labour rights in relation to trade, others have more recently begun to employ this approach. Recent negotiations and ratifications of RTAs between G7 countries seem to have converged on key objectives, which is a reflection of the significant lessons learned regarding the implementation (including the settlement of disputes) and compliance with labour provisions. It also reflects the broad-based concern with the uneven impacts of globalization and trade on the labour market and the attempts by nation states to push for a level playing field based on minimum conditions of work and labour rights for all trading partners. In addition, it enhances the need to further social justice through the inte- gration of international labour standards in different economic (including trade), financial, social and environmental policies.