The WTO and International Labour Organization

The WTO Secretariat maintains technical exchanges with the International Labour Organization with a view to helping members’ global economic policies. Activities range from compiling statistics, research and technical assistance and training.

Over the years, the role of the WTO and the relationship between WTO agreements and ILO labour standards have been debated, sometimes intensively. There is a body of legal opinion that says the two cannot be examined in isolation because countries have to comply with all their international obligations.

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Background explanations 


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The official position 


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The debate over the years 

Director-Generals’ speeches


Ministerial Conferences


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Collaboration between ILO and WTO Secretariats

The WTO Secretariat attends sessions of the ILO Governing Body as observer and also routinely participates in meetings of the Governing Body's Working Party on the Social Dimension of Globalization. At different times, WTO participation has been at head-of-agency level: Mr. Lamy addressed the Working Party on 26 March 2007 concerning the WTO/ILO joint study, and former Director-General, Mr. Mike Moore, similarly participated in a Working Party session on 18 March 2002, where the Working Party had before it a paper submitted earlier by the WTO Secretariat on the topic “Trade Liberalization and Employment”.

Further collaboration has occurred in the context of work undertaken between 2002-2004 by the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (an initiative of the ILO that brought together 26 eminent personalities to look at the different facets of globalization); former Director-General, Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, met with the Commission on 14 October 2002.

As well, the WTO Secretariat participates in follow-up mechanisms to the World Commission, including attendance at meetings of the ILO's Policy Coherence Initiative. In the last few years, the WTO Secretariat has on several occasions also attended conferences and seminars organized by the ILO, when issues of relevance to the WTO were discussed.


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International Labour Organization (ILO)   back to top

The ILO is the UN specialized agency which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights.

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