Trade and Labour

Legitimising an Unsustainable Approach to Trade coverICTUR's Researcher Ciaran Cross has written a new discussion paper, Legitimising an unsustainable approach to trade, which examines the incorporation of labour, environmental and sustainable development provisions in the EU’s free trade agreements (FTA).

The paper examines whether the overall objectives of these FTAs are truly compatible with a meaningful approach to labour rights, environmental protection and sustainable development? And if not, what are these provisions actually doing? Often the inclusion of labour clauses in particular seems designed for little more than promoting the ‘buy-in’ of trade unions to agreements that threaten not only jobs, but also public goods and the environment.

Following the publication of a new Model Labour Chapter by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung last year, the paper looks at the pitfalls of piecemeal attempts to attach ‘model’ provisions to FTAs. It concludes by proposing a more radical understanding of how trade union rights can be linked to FTA negotiations, which puts workers' fundamental rights at the forefront of this debate.

The paper has been co-published with German NGO Powershift and several other partners, and is available to download from the Transnational Institute website (


The International Centre for Trade Union Rights

Established in 1987, ICTUR is a non-profit organisation
based in London, promoting international trade
union rights through research and advocacy services.
Email: / Web: