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Authors

Karen F. Travis

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Over the past decade, several U.S. trade laws have, for the first time in recent U.S. history, linked international trade benefits to respect for labor rights. Several of the worker rights provisions incorporated in these statutes mirror two of the three categories of fundamental worker rights delineated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). However, worker rights-linked trade laws are starkly silent with respect to the third category of fundamental rights specified by the ILO: equality of opportunity and treatment, including freedom from gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Thus U.S. trade laws contain no provisions explicitly aimed at promoting respect for the rights of working women. While acknowledging this critical omission, this paper argues that worker rights-linked trade laws could, albeit unintentionally and indirectly, uniquely benefit female workers laboring in the export sector of developing countries. The realization of these benefits, however, depends on a number of political and economic variables and on the institutionalization of these benefits at the foreign national level.

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