Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: February 2010

4 - Trade measures on child labour



History has shown that under certain conditions, trade measures can be effective means of advancing the cause of human rights. A famous example is the first successful consumer boycott when hundreds of thousands refused to buy sugar produced by slaves in the Caribbean in order to achieve the abolition of slavery 200 years ago. Today, many more examples of trade measures on human rights exist.

In order to find out whether trade measures should complement the existing ILO and UN enforcement systems regarding the prohibition of child labour, this chapter will examine so-called existing ‘social clauses’ in trade agreements, trade incentive regimes, unilateral legislation providing for trade measures as well as private sector action aimed at the eradication of child labour. The term ‘multilateral social clause’ relates to a clause that applies at a global in contrast to a regional level. Since to date, no specific multilateral social clause exists, the chapter will begin by analysing social clauses in regional and bilateral trade agreements.



Several regional trade agreements refer to labour standards. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) provides for a side agreement on labour standards, the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC). Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay also included a declaration on social standards, the ‘Declaración Sociolaboral de 1998’ in their MERCOSUR.

Since 2000 however, there has been a proliferation of bilateral trade agreements concluded by the US incorporating labour standards as part of their foreign trade policy.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO