Balancing Trade and Labor: The Importance of Multistakeholder Collaboration for Equitable Globalization

Balancing Trade and Labor: The Importance of Multistakeholder Collaboration for Equitable Globalization

The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, geopolitical conflicts, and rapid digital technology shifts have disrupted international trade, leading to inequality, poverty, and decent work deficits. However, trade can be a powerful vehicle for inclusive growth and raising labor standards. Yet, not all workers and businesses have benefited equally from trade, leading to increased scrutiny of trade agreements.

International, multistakeholder collaboration in combining trade and labor policy is crucial to fostering equitable globalization and establishing a mutually beneficial relationship between trade and labor. About half the trade agreements concluded between 2011-20 included labor provisions, compared to only 22% in the previous decade.

Examples on the ground demonstrate how powerful cooperation and multistakeholder involvement can be. Civil society and labor unions are driving efforts to establish new mechanisms, while cross-border social dialogue and collaboration among trade unions and stakeholders are proving effective in advancing stronger government commitment to labor standards’ implementation.

Efforts to implement due diligence in supply chains and global framework agreements (GFA) are also instrumental in advancing labor standards, such as the GFA between the French multinational utilities company ENGIE and global union federations IndustriALL, BWI, and PSI.

As trade evolves, a new wave of cooperation is needed to bring benefits and opportunities for workers along complex supply chains. Integrating trade and labor market policies that promote economic growth and development while improving workers’ well-being is critical to achieving broader social justice objectives.

All in all, a coherent, coordinated, and collaborative approach to the trade-labor nexus is essential. Strong multistakeholder cooperation can contribute to an environment more receptive to long-term improvements in labor standards, raising public awareness of labor conditions, putting labor issues on the political agenda, and facilitating rigorous monitoring of compliance.


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