To what extent do EU trade and sustainable development instruments effectively promote labour rights in the Ready-Made Garment industry of South Asia?

Peake, Katrina (2020) To what extent do EU trade and sustainable development instruments effectively promote labour rights in the Ready-Made Garment industry of South Asia? PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis analyses the extent to which EU trade and sustainable development instruments effectively promote labour rights in the Ready-Made Garment (RMG) industry of South Asia. It contextualises EU trade and sustainable development in the framework of the International Labour Organization standards, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), predominantly SDG 8 on decent work and economic growth, and international trade law. Underpinning the research is the EU’s position as a normative actor in its external trade and development policies.

The RMG industry in South Asia is chosen on account of serious and systematic labour rights violations. It has a strong connection to the EU’s single market. The selection of South Asia limits the research question to major RMG producing countries which form a large proportion of EU RMG imports. To this end, the thesis examines three countries in detail: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. These are selected on account of RMG production, EU trade and sustainable development instruments, development status and proportion of RMG exports destined for the EU. The EU-ILO relationship is examined in depth in each case study.

The Bangladesh case study examines the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) Everything But Arms (EBA), specifically the possibility of negative conditionality, withdrawing tariff preferences upon serious and systematic violations of labour standards in the RMG industry. It assesses the EU’s route of ‘deep engagement’ in the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact as an alternative to negative conditionality. The case study uses interview data, giving a comprehensive picture of the GSP EBA and the Compact, and their impact in improving labour rights in the RMG industry.

The Sri Lanka case study explores the EU’s GSP Plus in relation to the country’s RMG industry. Specifically, the operation of negative conditionality, the withdrawal of GSP Plus in 2010 owing to violations connected to Sri Lanka’s civil war, is contrasted to the operation of positive conditionality, the re-grant of GSP Plus in 2017. To this end, it uses extensive interview data to present a picture of the limited effectiveness of the GSP Plus in promoting labour rights in the RMG industry.

The case study of Vietnam analyses the prospective EU-Vietnam “new generation” Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in relation to the country’s RMG industry. It examines the Sustainable Development Chapter of the FTA and draws upon the EU-Vietnam’s Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). It presents the FTA and PCA as instruments with potential to effectively improve labour rights in the restrictive context of the country’s RMG industry.

The research is finalised with a comparative analysis of the case studies and conclusions formed to the overarching research question. This is followed by a presentation of a summary of general conclusions from the critical analysis of the international trade, labour and sustainable development framework underpinning the EU’s actions. This thesis shows that the EU does promote labour rights in the RMG industry through trade and sustainable development instruments but needs to take further steps to make this more effective.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Kenner, Jeff
Ghazaryan, Narine
Keywords: EU, Trade, Sustainable Development, Labour Rights, Ready-Made Garment Industry, International Labour Organization
Subjects: H Social sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
K Law > K Law (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Law
Item ID: 61000
Depositing User: Peake, Katrina
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2021 08:26
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2021 08:26
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/61000

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