The European Union reached a provisional agreement on Tuesday to ban goods made using forced labour, advancing legislation that was broadly written with China in mind.

The ban, which still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council – made up of EU member states – will target specific economic sectors in places where state-imposed forced labour exists, based on a database drawn up by the European Commission.

China is not named in the documentation, given the need to comply with World Trade Organization rules. But the initial proposal was driven by widespread allegations of state-sponsored forced labour in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, which Beijing denies.

Does the WTO have any provision on what other countries can do against forced labor? There was a provisional agreement that was made in the EU in order to ban goods made using forced labor. I am wondering if there's any WTO provision regarding that and what other countries may do in response to a country using forced labor as China isn't the only country that uses forced labor or prison labor if they're not the same thing.

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    You present a quote but don't link to the source. From where is it? Commented Mar 8 at 7:29

1 Answer 1


Not explicitly

There is a clear consensus: all WTO member governments are committed to a narrower set of internationally recognized “core” standards — freedom of association, no forced labour, no child labour, and no discrimination at work (including gender discrimination).

At the 1996 Singapore Ministerial Conference, members defined the WTO’s role on this issue, identifying the International Labour Organization (ILO) as the competent body to negotiate labour standards. There is no work on this subject in the WTO’s Councils and Committees. [...]

The WTO agreements do not deal with labour standards as such.

The issue was also raised at the Seattle Ministerial Conference in 1999, but with no agreement reached. The 2001 Doha Ministerial Conference reaffirmed the Singapore declaration on labour without any specific discussion.

Summarizing some more from there, generally speaking, developing countries generally opposed anything more detailed. While developed countries are still pushing for WTO reform to include this.

The actual declaration from 1996:

We renew our commitment to the observance of internationally recognized core labour standards. The International Labour Organization (ILO) is the competent body to set and deal with these standards, and we affirm our support for its work in promoting them. We believe that economic growth and development fostered by increased trade and further trade liberalization contribute to the promotion of these standards. We reject the use of labour standards for protectionist purposes, and agree that the comparative advantage of countries, particularly low-wage developing countries, must in no way be put into question. In this regard, we note that the WTO and ILO Secretariats will continue their existing collaboration.

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