BRICS Joint Statement by Ambassador Ajit Kumar, at the 328th Session of ILO Governing Body on 'Labour Related Provisions in Trade Agreements: Recent Trends and relevance to the ILO

BRICS Joint Statement made by Shri Ajit Kumar, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva on 2.November, 2016
At the 328th Session of Governing Body,
27 October-10 November 2016

POL Section – Policy Development Section
Employment and Social Protection Segment

Labour Related Provisions in Trade Agreements: Recent Trends and relevance to the ILO (GB.328/POL/3)

Thank you Chair,

I have the honor to make this statement on behalf of BRICS nations, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. 

2.       We thank the Office for sharing details of the recent trends and relevance of labour related provisions in trade agreements to ILO.  We take note of the growing trend of including labour standards in trade agreements and the assistance and guidance of ILO sought by Member States as well as social partners in either implementing labour provisions of trade agreements or to have a developmental operational programme for capacity building as indicated in the agenda note.  However, these may not be proposed as universally agreed or desirable requisite for trade agreements for the want of more data as well as clarity on certain matters. 

3.       We take note of the reference made to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and fair trade policies in that context. A direct association between fair trade and labour standards would be mistaken, though, and could impair the necessary separation between the WTO and ILO mandates.

4.       We support collection and analysis of labour provisions in trade agreements for an in depth assessment of the issue and ILO's technical assistance, per se.  However, we believe capacity building of social partners should be a major focus area of ILO's technical assistance.

5.       While we support ILO developing partnerships with relevant International Organizations (IOs) for integrated policy interventions, we feel that there should not be any contradiction in the clearly defined mandate of IOs for it also results in multiple and sometimes contradictory compliance burden on countries. 

6.       We believe that the linking of labour and trade is an area which needs to be treaded very carefully for it is difficult to draw a general conclusion from existing literature/statistics regarding the existing relationships between labour provisions and labour market outcomes such as wages, share of vulnerable employment or gender gaps in those outcomes at the aggregate levels, as brought by ILO in its report “Assessment of Labour Provisions in Trade and Investment Arrangements”.  The data provided in the report does not elaborate on the regional concentration or grouping in terms of developmental stages of countries participating in trade agreements which would have clarified what is working and for whom. 

7.       Further, we refer to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) and to the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2008), both of which uphold the principle that labour standards should not be used for protectionist trade purposes.

8.       To conclude, we believe that fair trade polices at this stage should not be interpreted to automatically include labour provisions.  We support ILO to work with constituents for capacity building and assisting them for implementing decent work provisions wherever they are part of these agreements.  We look forward to more inputs and analysis in this regard.

9.       We support paragraph 31(a) and 31(c) and request that paragraph 31(b) be implemented with caution, given the lack of definition of agenda 2030 indicators, and with due regard to the relevance of national SDG commitments.

Thank you.


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