This document is a transcript of Professor Lance Compa’s remarks at the January 7, 1995 meeting of the Section on International Law of the American Association of Law Schools.
[Excerpt] The fact that the International Law Section put this topic on its agenda at this annual meeting is an indication that the "linkage" between labor rights and international trade is an idea whose time has come. I don't want to overstate its novelty. There's a certain cycle to this dynamic, and in fact the post-World War II period and the early years of the GATT saw a flurry of interest and activity on the "social clause" issue, but it fell away under pressures of the Cold War, the decolonization movement, and simply because it was less of an issue during the three post-war decades of sustained economic growth of the United States and the rest of the industrialized world.
Now, with international competitiveness such a paramount concern, issues of labor rights and trade have again come to the front burner of policy concerns. Indeed, if you do a database search under international labor rights, labor standards, trade and worker rights, and so on, you'll find many excellent contributions to the literature on this subject, most of it just in the past couple of years.