While the World Trade Organization (WTO) supports the proclamation of the International Labor Organization (ILO) that the very worst forms of child labor must be eliminated, the WTO has long resisted pressure from many sovereign nations and national and international labor organizations to incorporate a “social clause for labor” into its institutional structure. The WTO maintains that its mission is to liberalize trade around the globe and that that mission does not include addressing the “social dimensions of commerce”, which include not only environmental and labor issues, among others, but child labor as well. The author argues that children are technically not laborers at all, but rather are highly vulnerable human beings and that their “work” is essentially a plethora of exploitation. The author draws on the thoughts of Locke and Kant to demonstrate that children are a special class of human beings. The author claims that the WTO must not be allowed to continue to evade its responsibility to protect the welfare of children around the world who are victims of commerce-related exploitation by preserving what Janelle M. Diller has called an “apartheid of labor and trade”, a bifurcation premised on the notion that trade rules must not be tied to a set of core labor standards and thus to sanctions, administered by the WTO for violations of such standards. The author concludes that the WTO’s argument against incorporating a social clause for labor as such into its institutional structure does not free it from the ethical responsibility to develop a social clause that addresses the exploitation of children in the global economy.
|Keywords:||World Trade Organization, Child Labor, Social Clause, Global Economy, Commerce, Locke, Kant|
Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, USA
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