In This Review
International Labour Standards and Economic Interdependence

International Labour Standards and Economic Interdependence

Edited by Werner Sengenberger and Duncan Campbell

International Institute for Labour Studies, 1994, 394 pp.

The U.N.-affiliated International Labour Organization celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. This celebratory symposium offers a useful introduction to a wide range of views and perspectives on international labor standards. These standards played a significant role in the American debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement, were raised unsuccessfully by the United States and France at the concluding session of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations, and are on the future agenda of the new World Trade Organization.

The ILO has a long history of promoting international labor standards by simple majority vote of its tripartite council, although ratification by governments has been far less common. Here 29 authors from 17 countries, drawn from labor, business, academe, and international organizations, reveal a wide disparity of views, from those who believe standards should be universal (but with recognition that the content should vary from country to country according to level of development, for example on child labor or minimum wages) to those who believe the idea of labor standards has been made obsolete by rapid technological change and vigorous international competition, requiring great flexibility by business firms.