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Forced Labour

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 26 February 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will discuss with the World Trade Organisation the promulgation of rules to ban the importing and transporting of goods produced by slaves or by forced labour; and whether they consider that the Kimberley Process for diamonds, the Cocoa Protocol (2001) or the RugMark could provide useful precedents. [HL183]

There is no consensus among the World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership for linking trade and labour issues in the WTO forum. The International Labour Organisation is recognised globally as the appropriate forum for discussions on labour issues, and is engaged in initiatives aimed at combating slavery and forced labour. The UK encourages all ILO members to improve working conditions and to work towards ratifying and implementing the ILO Core Labour Conventions, which cover forced and child labour and other issues.

There are many valuable collaborative schemes to promote labour standards. The lessons and insights from schemes such as the Ethical Trading Initiative, the Kimberley Process, Cocoa Protocol and RugMark, are shared across countries and sectors by the initiatives themselves and by the ILO and its members and partners.

In some instances there is value in including core labour standards in preferential trade agreements. For example, the EU's special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP+) allows preferential access to EU markets for vulnerable countries that ratify and effectively implement key international instruments including the ILO Core Conventions.