“The World Trade Organization and the Special Case of Child Laborers in the Global Economy”

By Richard J. Klonoski.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

Global Studies Journal, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp.95-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 601.532KB).

Dr. Richard J. Klonoski

Professor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, USA

Richard J. Klonoski earned his B.A. in philosophy and English from the University of Scranton in 1974, an M.A. in philosophy from Kent State University in 1976, and a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1983 from Duquesne University. Dr. Klonoski’s many scholarly interests include Ancient Greek philosophy (esp. Plato and Aristotle), ethics, business ethics, phenomenology, political philosophy, and philosophy of education. Dr. Klonoski’s articles have appeared in such journals as Tulane Studies in Philosophy, The Journal of Business Ethics, The Classical Journal, Ancient World, Classical Outlook, Contemporary Philosophy, Business Horizons, Between the Species, CLIO, Health Care Management Review, The McNesse Review, History of Political Thought, Teaching Business Ethics, The Journal of Educational Thought, and the International Journal of Ethics. His book with Thomas M. Garrett, Business Ethics, 2nd ed. Prentice-Hall, 1986 was translated into Ukrainian and was published in Ukraine by Osnovy Publishers in 1997. Dr. Klonoski currently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the International Journal of Ethics. Dr. Klonoski has been a member of the Philosophy Department at the University of Scranton since 1981 and holds the rank of Full Professor. From 1989 to 1991 and from 2004-2007 he was chairperson of that department.

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