|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.29, 19.7.01, p4|
EUROPEAN Commissioners Pascal Lamy and Anna Diamantopoulou have unveiled plans to beef up the powers of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in a bid to avoid a Seattle-style breakdown at the next round of world trade talks.
The trade and jobs chiefs want the ILO - a UN agency which promotes social justice and human rights - to be given tougher powers against countries which treat their workers badly and to able to offer incentives to comply with minimum labour standards. "The ILO is perceived as weak because its enforcement mechanism, being limited to ratified conventions, has limited effectiveness," they say in their joint paper. "By comparison the World Trade Organisation, with its rules-based system and binding dispute settlement mechanism, is a strong and relatively effective organisation."
In calling for the role of ILO to be expanded, the Commission hopes to distance the issue of labour standards from the next round of WTO trade talks in Qatar in November.
A stand-off between developing and some developed nations over whether minimum work standards should be a prerequisite for lifting trade barriers prompted the collapse of the Seattle talks in 1999.
Developing countries argued that rich nations want to use social standards as an excuse to eliminate their biggest advantage - cheap labour costs. The Commissioners hope their latest plans unveiled yesterday (17 July), which steer well clear of calling for WTO trade sanctions, will fend off charges of protectionism.
They also argue that separating the issues will protect progress on labour standards from the volatility of trade talks. "If the WTO breaks down next time or the time after it doesn't necessarily mean that the work on trade and labour standards breaks down too," said Diamantopoulou's spokesman, Andrew Fielding.
European Commissioners Pascal Lamy and Anna Diamantopoulou have unveiled plans to beef up the powers of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in a bid to avoid a Seattle-style breakdown at the next round of world trade talks.