Human Rights and Governance Provisions in OECD Country Trade Agreements with Developing Countries

26th April 2017
Author: Idris Iffat

Trade agreements increasingly feature governance and human rights provisions. Countries taking the lead in this are the United States and Canada (the EU was not covered in this review). However, they tend to be selective in their provisions, focusing in particular on labour rights, transparency and anti-corruption, as well as public participation and intellectual property rights. Labour rights provisions in trade agreements are progressively moving from hortatory to mandatory, but sanctions and enforcement remain weak. Dispute resolution mechanisms are rarely triggered, and even in cases where economic sanctions could be applied this is not done: signing parties generally prefer to engage in dialogue to resolve labour disputes (ILO, 2016). Other governance provisions in trade agreements are usually less binding. Time constraints meant it was not possible to conduct the primary research (analysis of individual country trade agreements) ideally required to respond to this query. Instead, the review drew on available literature on governance and human rights provisions in trade agreements. Much of the literature is on EU trade agreements; the review was able to find considerable material on the US, and some on Canada and Chile, but there was negligible analysis of these issues in the context of other bilateral agreements.

Suggested Citation

Idris, I. (2017). Human rights and governance provisions in EU and OECD country trade agreements with developing countries. K4D Helpdesk Report 103. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies


26th April 2017


Continent: Global