Layna Mosley, one of our IR profs, has a very good op-ed in the NY Times that summarizes some of her recent research on the effect of international trade on labor rights.* Many would be surprised by the results of this work. Gist:
There is, however, a more general way in which trade agreements — and the economic ties they generate — benefit workers in developing nations. As Colombia and Panama expand their trade relationships with the United States, workers stand to gain more than just the job creation and higher wages that often come with expanded trade. Research I conducted over the last several years with the political scientists Brian Greenhill and Aseem Prakash suggests that trade with developed nations helps developing countries expand labor rights themselves.Read the whole thing.
Why? International trade gives producers incentives to meet the standards of their export markets. When developing nations export more to countries with better labor standards, their labor rights laws and practices tend to improve. Our findings, which are based on newly collected measures of labor rights around the world, demonstrate a “California effect” on workers’ rights, in which exporting nations are influenced by the labor rights conditions that prevail in their main trading partners.
*I guess Layna didn't want to get shown-up by her husband, UNC Prof Andy Reynolds, who recently had an op-ed on Libya in the News and Observer.