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Human Trafficking and the New ILO Labor Provisions in Trade Agreement Hub

Updated: Jun 8, 2022

On 26 Jan 2022, the International Labor Organization (ILO) announced a new global database on trade agreements containing labor provisions, paving the way for a more human-centered approach to trade policy. The Labor Provisions in Trade Agreements Hub (LP Hub) offers a comprehensive, structured compilation of the text of labor provisions in more than 100 regional trade agreements (RTAs) in about 140 economies. The LP Hub is supported by the European Commission and the Government of Flanders and is regularly updated.

Labor provisions are obligations in trade agreements to protect and advance workers’ rights, including through different forms of cooperation and dialogue between trade unions, business organizations and the general public. Around half of trade agreements concluded in the last decade (2011-2020), contained labor provisions, compared to only 22 per cent in the previous decade (2001-2010).

Users can navigate and analyze labor provisions across trade partners and over time, visualize data and trends, search for specific terms and download relevant information (full data: .xlsx format, multiple worksheets; filtered text: .pdf format). A key feature is the classification of labor provisions into categories, which allows users to locate key terms quickly and accurately within and across agreements.

The three main categories into which the Hub organizes the text of labor provisions are:

  • Obligations

  • Monitoring and Cooperation

  • Dispute Settlement Mechanisms

These are further divided into 74 sub-categories, also covering pre- and post-ratification documents, which include monitoring and cooperation activities, as well as disputes triggered under labor provisions. The main categories are broad and intend to capture key labor issues in RTAs, whereas the sub-categories provide greater granularity.

The LP Hub offers the following features to navigate and analyze labor provisions in RTAs:

  • An interactive world map: The world map offers an immediate overview of the number of RTAs with labor provisions globally, with varying shades of blue (or grey, where none). Hover over a trade partner to obtain information about its RTAs with and without labor provisions; and display links (illustrated by yellow lines) to other trade partners with which it holds an RTA containing labor provisions. Click on the trade partner to isolate it and select from its RTAs with labor provisions, either on the map or in the text table underneath the map.

  • Text table: The text table lists each trade partner’s RTAs and, most importantly, provides the text and location of all labor provisions in each RTA. Expand the text within the table using the arrow or click on the title of an RTA to get more information on a separate page. The separate page includes a link to the original full text of the RTA. You can navigate through all labor provisions contained in the RTA and filter by category.

  • Trend graphs: The trend graphs provide information on the evolution of RTAs over time, displaying the ratio of RTAs with labor provisions to RTAs without, globally, regionally, and domestically (according to the filter selected). Trend graphs are also available for labor provisions’ categories.

  • Time slider: The time slider allows users to display and obtain information on RTAs entered into force within a certain period. Simply move the time slider to the desired point in time. The default start year is 1994 when the first binding labor provision was included in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Nevertheless, the database also includes previous RTAs without labor provisions, and inactive trade agreements with labor provisions.

  • Filters: The filters offer greater data granularity and allow displaying information on both the map and trend graphs. You can also filter and search within categories.

Human Trafficking-Related Sub-Categories

The Obligations category (under Thematic Areas) contains two human trafficking-related sub-categories and a search on each produces the following results:

  • Child Labour: 66 RTAs

  • Force Labour: 59 RTAs

Text searches on these terms (and variants) produce different results:

  • Child Labor: 20 RTAs

  • Child Labour: 55 RTAs

  • Forced Labor: 8 RTAs

  • Forced Labour: 9 RTAs

  • Human Trafficking: 1 RTA

  • Trafficking in Persons: 1 RTA

  • Trafficking in Human Beings: 4 TRAs

  • Modern Slavery: 0 RTAs

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