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The Enforcement of Labor Standards in Preferential Trade Agreements as Protectionism: How Textile Industries in the US and EU Have Used Private Labor Standards to Protect Their Markets

To determine whether my findings on the use of transnational private standards in the forestry sector are generalizable to other issue-areas, I will investigate the effect the adoption of transnational labor standards by the textile industry has had on labor enforcement clauses in preferential trade agreements signed by the United States and the EU. Trade agreements present both opportunities and threats to firms in the textile sector. On the one hand, it enables them to develop supply chains in countries with lower production costs. On the other, reduced tariffs open their domestic markets to competitors. As firms in high- income countries were ‘named and shamed’ into adopting private labor standards in the 1990s (Hemphill, 1999), they hold a competitive disadvantage compared to firms not subject to such regulations in low- and mid- income countries. Using data on labor clauses in over 200 preferential trade agreements from the World Bank’s Global Preferential Trade Agreements Database, I will test the hypothesis that textile enforcement clauses have been used as a form of protectionism. If I find a relationship between strength of labor enforcement clauses in agreements and the competitive pressures faced by the textile industry, I will subsequently pursue a qualitative analysis of selected cases. By tracing the lobbying activities of textile firms, I expect to find that firms’ adoption of transnational private labor standards has facilitated their ability to coordinate their lobbying for stronger regulation with NGOs (Mosley & Tello, 2015).