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The Social Dimension in EU Free Trade Agreements: ASEAN Perspectives

  • Hoang Ha Hai (a1)


This article analyses the positions of ASEAN countries on provisions of environmental and social sustainability included in the EU free trade agreements (FTA). In the EU’s new generation FTAs with ASEAN countries, there has been a notable and systematic EU approach of linking international labour conventions and multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) in its trade agreements, which reflects its ambition to play a significant role in ‘harnessing globalization’. However, during trade negotiations, contradictory positions between two sides originate from their different political, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. When considering the developing countries’ objections to the issue from an ASEAN perspective, three main decisive points can be identified: the exclusive reliance on economic cost-related arguments, different perceptions of the trade-labour/environment nexus, and political and cultural-relativist arguments. Practical findings show that the EU faces resistance to this linkage from the ASEAN countries, which weakens its ability to promote universal social norms through trade.


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