Whereas a number of studies have been conducted to investigate causal relations between individual conditions (e.g. trade relations and labour standards), there is a lack of consensus among practitioners and scholars about the conditions that favour or cause labour standards improvements and, specifically, it is still unclear whether the increasing pervasiveness of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) is conducive to enhancing labour conditions. The aim of this study is to shed light on whether labour clauses in FTAs are conducive to better labour standard practices, whether the content of a clause makes a difference, and whether changes have anything to do with other (external) pressures that play a role in changing labour standards. The main argument of the article is that FTAs do not play a determinant role in improving labour standards in signatory states. The analysis is done by looking at 13 FTAs signed by the United States with 19 countries. The United States is chosen because of its relatively extensive collection of FTAs including different conditions on labour standards. The empirical dataset is analysed with Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) method, which permits to trace the combined effect of independent variables rather than to focus on the direct and individual causality with each of them.
- labour standards
- qualitative comparative analysis
- Free trade agreements