Involving Civil Society in the Implementation of Social Provisions in Trade Agreements: Comparing the US and EU Approach in the Case of South Korea


  • Lore Van den Putte Ghent University



The last few years have seen an increase of both free trade agreements (FTAs) and social provisions therein, such as the standards from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The US and the European Union (EU) are two of the biggest proponents of the trade-labour linkage. While the US practice is characterized by a ‘conditional’ approach, the EU’s approach is seen as ‘promotional’. Nonetheless, both foresee the possibility for civil society – such as unions, business organisations and academics - to monitor the implementation of social provisions. By focusing on the trade agreements of the US and the EU with South Korea, this paper assesses to what extent these civil society monitoring mechanisms differ and to what extent they can be effective in the long run. Methodologically the paper combines an analysis of the legislative texts of the trade agreement and of official documents produced by the mechanisms on the one hand and expert interviews on the other hand. The explorative study shows that the following factors are important for long term impact: fixed participants, funding, feedback of the governments on the advice of the mechanisms and strong institutionalisation.