July 2016: GIFTA workshop on social dimensions of FTAs

The fifth GIFTA workshop (Governance and Economic Integration through Free Trade Agreements) in Brussels was dedicated to the social and labour impacts of FTAs. Several CEUS and other UGent researchers contributed to this event.

May 2016: Two panels on trade-labour nexus at EUIA V Conference

The Centre of EU Studies assembled two panels to discuss the trade-labour nexus at the occasion of the fifth European Union Interantional Affairs Conference in Brussels:

  • Academic Panel T1F: Balancing Economic Interests and Labour Rights in EU External Trade and Investment Policy I: Latin America and Legal Tensions between Trade, Labour and Human Rights

Session Chair: Jeffrey Scott Vogt, ITUC
Discussant: Sangeeta Khorana, Bournemouth University
Session Chair: Jan Orbie, Ghent University
Session Chair: Fabienne Bossuyt, Ghent University


  1. A Little Less Conversation: The EU and the (Non) Application of Labour Conditionality in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Jeffrey Vogt (ITUC/CSI)
  2. Normative Power and Soft Conditionality: Labour Rights Promotion in EU Trade AgreementsAxel Marx, Brecht Lein (KU Leuven)
  3. Obstacles and Opportunities in the Implementation of the Trade and Sustainability Chapter in New EU Trade AgreementsMaria Garcia (University of Bath)
  4. The Nature of the Asymmetry between Trade and Labour Rights in Trade Agreements of the EU - Herman Voogsgeerd (Groningen University)
  • Academic Panel T2C: Balancing Economic Interests and Labour Rights in EU External Trade and Investment Policy II: The Impact on Labour Rights

Session Chair: Jan Orbie, Ghent University
Discussant: Maria Garcia, University of Bath
Session Chair: Axel Marx, KU Leuven


  1. The Trade-Labour Linkage in EU Trade Policy: Much Ado About Nothing - Samantha Velluti (University of Lincoln), Pawel Frankowski (Jagiellonian University)
  2. Do Preferential Trade Agreements Including Labour Provisions Reduce Collective Labour Rights Violations? - Dora Sari (Geneva University), David Kucera (International Labour Organisation), Damian Raess (University of Reading)
  3. Labour standards as an ‘afterthought’ in trade agreements: the South Korea case- Gerda Van Roozendaal (Groningen University)
  4. Civil Society Meetings in European Union Trade Agreements: Talking Shops or Empowerment Devices?- Lore Van den Putte, Deborah Martens (Ghent University)

February 2016: Hearing of the Belgian House of Representatives on sustainable development chapter in EU trade agreements

On February 2 Lore Van den Putte and Jan Orbie gave a presentation on the sustainable development chapters in EU trade agreements during a hearing of the Belgian House of Representatives, Committee for Foreign Affairs.

June 2015: What social face of the new EU trade agreements?

On 23 June the Centre for EU Studies, in collaboration with the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) organized a lunch debate on ‘What social face of the new EU trade agreements’? This lunch debate aimed to assess the social commitment of the new generation of European Union trade agreements. The event brought together practitioners, representatives of civil society and scholars who discussed three interrelated issues concerning the social content of recent EU trade agreements: (i) the cooperative nature of the EU approach, (ii) the involvement of civil society in the implementation of labour provisions and (iii) the effectiveness of the EU’s trade-labour linkage.

Speakers included Pascal Lamy (former WTO and European Commission), Monika Hencsey (DG Trade), Tom Jenkins (ETUC) and Lore Van den Putte (CEUS). The debate was introduced by Philippe Pochet (ETUI) and moderated by Jan Orbie (CEUS).

The background document fostering the debate can be accessed here.

General conclusions from the debate include (but are not limited to) the following. First of all, it was argued that apart from trade agreements, non-state actors and private initiatives are expected to play a more important role in ‘the new world of trade’. Secondly, the European Commission sees itself as dealing with the ‘root causes’ of labour problems in third countries (as opposed to the US that would be dealing with the ‘symptoms’ only). However, this was disputed by trade union representatives in the room who pointed to the lack of results of the cooperative approach. Third it was mentioned that EU delegations need more expertise on labour issues. Fourth, more coherence is needed between the fields of trade, social and development policy.

Read the transcripts of the debate here.

A Policy Brief was written by Lore Van den Putte et al. as a follow up to this lunch debate. It proposes three practical policy recommendations on how the EU should upgrade its trade-labour-linkage approach in free trade agreements. Read the ETUI Policy Brief here.

June 2015: Fruitful EU trade & social development

This seminar concluded an exploratory field research on the impact of GSP+ and the Association Agreement on the social development in the Cost Rican banana and pineapple sector. It was organised in collaboration with CINPE from the Universidad National de Costa Rica to discuss first findings and intended next research steps with local stakeholders and academics and resulted in valuable insights.

August 2008: The European Union in the World

This workshop involved the presentation of 6 papers related to the EU in the world, with particular attention to the Pacific region. Approximately 10 participants attended, including members of the Jean Monnet Centre for EU Studies at Canterbury University in New Zealand. The programme and abstracts can be found here.

November 2007: Open Forum and Debate

On 22 November 2007 an open forum and debate took place in Ghent in cooperation with MO* magazine. The public activity formed part of a larger academic project on the role of the European Union in relation to the social dimension of globalization and, more specifically, the potential contribution of the EU in this area through its external policies. It involved a discussion between civil society, NGOs, policy-makers, academics and students, on the EU’s external social policies. This event aimsed to bring together the various actors with a view on the question of the EU’s role in relation to the social dimension of globalization external to it, and to encourage an exchange of perspectives between these different actors.
The basic question of the forum was: how and to what extent can the European Union promote the social dimension of globalization internationally? What are the opportunities and obstacles? Transcripts of the debate can be found here.

2007: Trade Roundtable

This academic event addressed the social dimension of EU trade policy. Trade is the oldest and most powerful external policy domain of the EU. Yet the social dimension of Europe’s common commercial policy has scarcely been researched. This roundtable examined various aspects such as labour conditionality in the EU's Generalized System of Preferences, social provisions in EU bilateral agreements, preferences of the EU member states in this area, gender equity and EU trade relations, the external dimension of the EU's corporate social responsibility strategy, and a comparison between EU and US policies. The ideas discussed in this roundtable have resulted in a special issue European Foreign Affairs Review (link).

March 2007: workshop on the EU’s Global Social Role (Lisbon)

On 2 and 3 March 2007 an exploratory workshop on the EU’s Global Social Role was held in Lisbon. The workshop consisted of four sessions addressing the following topics:

    1. EU social policies: linking internal and external dimensions
    2. A normative power Europe? Export of the EU social model in the neighbourhood and in the world
    3. The social dimension of EU external trade policies
    4. New actors and new partners.

A working paper based on the workshop an be found here.