This article examines environmental and labour regimes in twenty-eight leading regional trade agreements (RTAs). It identifies the different legal regimes regulating labour and the environment within the territories of the parties to these regional agreements. To produce a comparative assessment of the scope and strength of these regimes, the research uses a multidimensional method of legal analysis.
This article argues that as the impact of other international law sources in the World Trade Organization (WTO), including labour and environmental law seems to be narrowing, labour and the environment regulation within RTAs is expanding. These ‘behind-the-border’ regulatory commitments are made more enforceable when they are linked to trade agreements because trade retaliatory measures are potentially permitted in the event of non-compliance.
This article concludes that despite the shift towards including labour and environmental regulation within RTAs, there are strict limits to how far these regimes can promote these issues. This has implications for the use of RTAs as a forum for this type of regime.Legal Issues of Economic Integration