Cornell University

Catherwood Library

Catherwood Library, Ives Hall, 607-255-5435
WTO Trade and Labor Issues

Created by Stuart Basefsky for a presentation at the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Conference in Seattle, Washington on June 16, 2008, 9 - 10:30am for a program entitled, "WTO, Seattle, & Global Trade/ Labor Issues" and a special segment on "Recommended Resources for International Trade and Related  Labor Issues Research."


Congressional Research Service (CRS)
Order Code 98-928
The World Trade Organization: Background and Issues
Updated May 9, 2007
Ian F. Fergusson, Specialist in International Trade and Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
[full-text, 15 pages]

Policy Issues
4. Should the WTO cover traditional trade issues only, or should it be
broadened to include nontraditional issues such as labor and the environment?
The GATT agreement first established rules only on border measures (tariffs and quotas) and later added rules on certain internal practices that clearly had direct effects on trade in goods (e.g., subsidies, government procurement). The Uruguay Round agreements further expanded trade rules to cover new areas such as trade in services and intellectual property rights. U.S. businesses generally want the WTO to refrain from extending beyond these traditionally trade-related issues, because they argue that the greatest export opportunities will be achieved only if negotiators focus on trade barriers and do not include social factors.

Many groups, however, argue that the WTO should be expanded to include nontraditional topics. Two topics that have been at the center of current trade debate are labor and the environment. Labor groups argue that many countries exploit workers, including children, to produce low-cost products for foreign markets. Environmental groups want more consideration of the environmental effects of the production of goods for trade included under WTO rules. There is strong disagreement domestically on traditional and nontraditional topics in trade negotiations. Internationally, countries hold a wide range of positions on this question.

Baumert, J., Johnson, K., Heuschel, D. & Lynch, B. (2008).
International cooperation on trade and labor issues.
Washington, DC: United States International Trade Commission (USITC)

A joint study of the International Labour Office
and the Secretariat of the World Trade Organization


Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB)
  Labor-Related Reports for U.S. Free Trade Agreements
  Office of Trade and Labor Affairs (OTLA) 
  North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC)
  NAALC Cooperative Activities

Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB)
  Search Page
  Explanation & Home Page

Commission for Labor Cooperation

Congressional Research Service (CRS) via
  Open CRS
  DigitalCommons@ILR [ILR School, Cornell University]
  Key Workplace Documents
    Some recent key examples--
    Overview of Labor Enforcement Issues in Free Trade Agreements[2/29 2008]
    The U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement: Effects After Three Years[1/7/2008]
    Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers: Current Issues and Legislation [2/20/2008] (U.S. Government Site under International Trade Administration)
  Regional Database
  Click on the arrow pointing to each country -- Canada, Mexico -- and NAFTA.
  This will expand each into numerous categories in which documentation can be found.

General Accountability Office (GAO)
GAO-08-59 International Trade: An Analysis of Free Trade Agreements and Congressional and Private Sector Consultations under Trade Promotion Authority [November 2007]

Human Resources Development Canada

ILR School, Cornell University
Globalization & the Workplace
A portal to documentation on the effects of globalization on workers and working conditions, labor relations, and social movements.
    Social Conditions
    Economic and Social Justice
    International Labor Standards
    Web Archive

International Labour Organization (ILO)

Mexican Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare

Public Citizen
  Global Trade Watch
  This site include numerous useful links, projects, programs and includes the
  Trade Adjustment Assistance Database

United States Trade Representative (USTR)
  Trade Agreements

  USTR Focus on Labor

World Trade Organization (WTO)
  The WTO and International Labour Organization


Federation of International Trade Associations (FITA)


Archives Document Library  for Washington
The World Trade Organization in Seattle

WTO History Project [Seattle]

WTO Seattle Collection