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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mapping the social clause debate : the potential of the social clause to contribute to the development of an alternative form of economic integration Long, Andrea Elizabeth


In response to concern about the model of trade and investment liberalization reflected in existing and proposed trade and investment agreements (TIAs), efforts have been made to balance the economic orientation of trade with social considerations. One proposal that has garnered significant attention in this regard is the social clause (SC): a set of labour rights to be attached to the text of TIAs. Although the idea of including labour rights in TIAs seems laudable, significant opposition to the particular SC recommendations developed by Canadian and international labour organizations has emerged. Some critics charge that the addition of a clause to TIAs will not only prove unproductive, but will actually serve to legitimate problematic aspects of these agreements. Others insist that the content of the SC will exacerbate existing inequalities in the international trade order. In this thesis, I reconstruct debate over the SC to determine whether this instrument can effectively contribute to the realization of a more socially responsible trade and investment regime. Using proposals advanced by the Canadian Labour Congress as a key point of reference, I argue that there are resources available to clause proponents to respond to claims that the SC is an inadequate approach to the goal of resisting the current model of liberalization. As such, there is room to resist the conclusion that the SC should be rejected in its entirety. While it may be possible to preserve the SC approach, however, the same cannot be said about the content of current clause proposals. Criticisms of the narrow range of issues covered by existing SC recommendations clearly demonstrate that a rethinking of the content of the clause is not only warranted, but also necessary. Accordingly, I conclude by exploring three considerations that should be factored into the development of what would constitute a more adequate SC: first, existing patterns of inequality in the international trade system; second, the range of issues addressed by the clause; and third, the location of the clause within the context of the international trade regime.

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