The multilateral rules which regulate international trade do not effectively recognise a need to protect core labour standards in trade. The omission of a trade-labour linkage clause in the legal framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) compromises social justice. The incorporation of such a clause would advance efforts to ensure justice in labour practices linked to trade. However, such justice cannot just be found but must be built. Institutions must be created or reformed to guarantee progress towards fairness and equality and to protect human freedoms and fundamental rights. Core labour standards are essential to all democratic societies. However, developing countries view proposals to include core labour standards in multilateral trade agreements as part of a trade protectionist agenda of developed countries. The WTO has distanced itself from the protection of core labour standards taking the stance that it is the duty of the International Labour Organisation to protect such standards. This article assesses the prospects of locating the legal basis for establishing a trade-labour linkage in the WTO legal framework on the widely accepted theory and conception of human rights. Embracing core labour standards as human rights, it emphasises the need to balance trade-related profit maximisation and the attainment of social justice as a development which could strengthen the WTO’s legitimacy.

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