(Re)Imagining the Trade-Labour Linkage: The Capabilities Approach

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


This chapter explores the role that international trade law can play in protecting and promoting workers’ rights. Using the capabilities approach to invert the normative foundation of the international trading system, this chapter proposes that the trade–labour linkage should be reimagined with a greater focus on human freedoms and capabilities. It will be argued that the increasingly formalist interpretation of trade rules at the multi-lateral level and in the context of free trade agreements (FTAs) has resulted in the marginalization of labour standards. A critical analysis of the recent Guatemala Labour Dispute, which is the first labour standards dispute to be brought under a FTA, is presented with a view to highlighting how the interpretation of international trade rules can result in the perpetuation of human unfreedoms. This chapter concludes by arguing that the capabilities approach offers an alternative vision for development, but the transformative potential for a just and equitable trade regime can only be realized if there is a meaningful commitment to human agency and participation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Capability Approach to Labour Law
EditorsBrian Langille
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9780198836087
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


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