Trade and investment for decent work

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Publication Date: 
25 April 2017
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Employment opportunities and decent jobs promotion result from investment and trade as labour market drivers at national and regional levels. The AU Continental Free Trade Area (FCTA), in particular through its action plan, seeks integrating labour rights and standards requirements as described in the cluster on market factors. It calls for regional integration of labour markets for labour mobility to support investment, growth and inclusive development.

Trade agreements in Regional Economic Communities are enhanced by policy frameworks and protocols dealing with the imperatives of aligning labour market integration with the regional integration agenda for development. ECOWAS, EAC, SADC and COMESA are at the forefront of these regional dynamics tough with different focus and level of intensity.

At global level, labour rights provisions are included in global trade agreements and they are also found in trade and investment agreements in other regions (EU, Asia, Latin America, etc). The ILO is very instrumental in promoting the Fundamental Conventions in investment and trade. A remarkable example is the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which provides unilateral trade preferences to sub-Saharan African countries1 opening access to U.S. markets in an effort to support economic growth and development in the region.

The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) works with African countries to ensure economic growth made through trade and investment in U.S.-African trade programs includes adherence to internationally recognized labor rights. These efforts seek to ensure that the benefits of trade are widely shared, and that workers and businesses compete on a level global playing field. 


Labor Provisions in U.S.-African Trade Programs In some trade agreements, like AGOA eligibility is conditioned on countries’ efforts to “make continual progress toward establishing protection of internationally recognized worker rights, including freedom of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, a prohibition on forced or compulsory labor, a minimum age for the employment of children, and acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wages, hours, and occupational safety and health.”2 Implementation of a country’s commitment to eliminate the worst forms of child labor is also taken into consideration. The Morocco FTA labor provisions require both the United States and Morocco (the parties) to “strive to ensure that labor standards are consistent with internationally recognized labor rights”3 and that neither party “fail to effectively enforce its labor laws, through a sustained or recurring course of action or inaction, in a manner affecting trade