Working for All? New Ideas and Innovative Strategies to Enhance Economic and Social Benefits in Trade Agreements

Thursday, May 14, 2015

9:00am to 5:00pm


Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20052

How Can TTIP benefit workers and promote employment? Read Professor Susan Aaronson’s latest paper.

The US, Canada, and Mexico agreed to the first labor rights provisions in NAFTA, which went into force in 1993. Some 22 years later, the bulk of the world’s economies, from Albania to Zimbabwe, participate in a trade arrangement with labor rights provisions, whether through a free trade agreement, a preferential trade arrangement, or in an investment agreement. Since 2008, 41 out of 93 new trade agreements included labor provisions and over 60 per cent of the trade agreements concluded in 2013 and 2014 included labor provisions.

But there is a lot that we do not know about these agreements. Scholars, policymakers, labor rights activists, and the business community do not know if these provisions are effective in improving working conditions. Moreover, in instances where they have been effective it is unclear why and what has been the role of the different stakeholders?

How can trade agreements promote employment, enhance the link between economic and social benefits and achieve sustainable development? How can the interconnectedness between economic, social and environmental objectives be protected and promoted? Which complementary policies are key to inclusive growth and help in capitalizing opportunities from trade openness?

For more information, please contact Kyle Renner at or 202-994-5320.


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Conference Agenda

8:30 – 9:00 – Registration and Breakfast

9:00 – 9:30 – Welcome and Opening Remarks

  • Dr. Jay Shambagh (Director Institute for International Economic Policy)
  • Nancy Donaldson (ILO Washington DC)
  • Carol Pier (Deputy Undersecretary, International Labor Affairs, U.S. Department of Labor)

9:30 – 11:00 – Session I: Decent work for all? How to bridge the gap between the social and economic dimensions of trade agreements?

  • Moderator: Marva Corley (ILO)
  • Rudi Delarue (European Commission)
  • Lance Compa (ILR, Cornell University)

11:00 – 11:15 – Coffee Break

11:15 – 12:45 – Session II: Roundtable: To ensure that trade agreements work for all, can we achieve coherence within and among trade agreements?

  • Moderator: Anil Verma (University of Toronto)
  • Pierre Bouchard (Bilateral and Regional Labor Affairs, Canada)
  • Silvia Formentini (Trade and Sustainable Development, EC)
  • Kevin Kolben (Rutgers University)
  • Pablo Lazo Grandi (Permanent Mission of Chile to UN in Geneva)

12:45 – 2:00 – Lunch

2:00 – 3:30 – Session III: What evidence do we have that trade agreements are working for all? How do we measure the effectiveness of labor provisions in FTAs?

  • Moderator: Jan Van Hove (University of Leuven)
  • Raymond Robertson (Macalester College)
  • Bill Gibson (University of Vermont)
  • Werner Raza (Austrian Foundation of Development Research)

3:30 – 3:45 – Coffee Break

3:45 – 5:15 – Session IV: Roundtable: What innovative ideas with regard to the promotion of labour rights and improvement of working conditions can be explored to ensure that trade agreements do work for all?

  • Moderator: Susan Aaronson (Elliott School of International Affairs, GWU)
  • Ms. Xiaoyan Qian (Chinese Embassy, Washington DC)
  • Tonia Novitz (University of Bristol)
  • Thomas Zielke (RGIT)
  • Ariel Meyerstein (USCIB)
  • Celeste Drake (AFL-CIO)

5:15 – 5:30 – Closing Remarks

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