This study aims to determine the appropriate response to the Blue Round, which intends to establish international standards for labor conditions and link the standards with trade regulations. It is expected that debate regarding the Blue Round will be a major issue in the international trade order in the future.
The Blue Round was initiated when the U.S. Trade Representative made clear his policy to use the retaliation clause for unfair trade practices by trading partners, after submitting the “Green & Blue 201 Clause” bill. It implies that intervention is possible even in areas not subject to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Specifically, discussion on associating labor with trade has been raised by the West since the 1980s, and has not yet been ratified due to strong resistance from developing countries. However, it can be an important negotiation item in the future.
The Blue Round started as part of a short-term strategy for economically advanced countries to resolve high unemployment, although it criticizes the practice of providing products produced in an impoverished environment as ‘Social Dumping’ justifying this practice as “protection for laborers”. However, skilled and educated workers have experienced a widening wage gap, even in the U.S., since the 1980s, and there is a possibility that the U.S. will trade products produced cheaply. An international agreement bridging labor with trade will be difficult to sanction in the near future because the economically advanced countries have difficulty in reaching consensus.
Meanwhile, the intentions expressed by the International Labor Organization to agree to the Blue Round may present the possibility that Blue Round resolutions become issues in the future. Korea should expect that almost every labor condition including three labor rights, forced labor, employment of minors, minimum wages, working hours and industrial safety will be and included in the agenda, and make preparations for this. Korea is positioned to accept, not lead, the Blue Round.
It is expected that the Blue Round will never be disadvantageous to Korea, and that a static effect will restore some price competitiveness in light industry. However, companies in the midst of expanding division of labor in industry and restructuring based on extensive knowledge and globalization are expected to bear a negative impact. Currently, it is likely that the initiation of the Blue Round is will occur regardless of Korean sentiment. Therefore, Korea needs to overhaul labor regulations that guarantees labor’s three primary rights in Korea, improve industrial safety, and resolve long working hours conflicts, which exemplify the low quality of labor conditions in Korea. Furthermore, institutions need to institute policy changes regarding occupational health and safety insurance, and employment of safety managers. Regulations and clauses should be revised to secure bargaining power, and partial operation needs to be allowed for managers, non-union members and union members hoping to resume operation during a strike. Additionally, improvement needs to be made in information services for foreign investment companies and foreign workforce management systems.
블루라운드의 전망과 대처방안(Outlook for the blue round and countermeasures)
|Series Title; No||정책포럼 / 제46호(9416)|
|Subject Country||South Korea(Asia and Pacific)|
|Subject||Economy < Trade|
|Holding||KDI; KDI School|