In 1947, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom led 20 other countries to negotiate the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). The agreement strove to promote economic stability and regulate international trade between member states but did not address labor standards. The GATT’s successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO), also fails to establish labor standards while urging states to conduct trade with a view toward raising standards of living and ensuring full employment.

The WTO’s lack of definitive labor standards led to advocacy for a stronger link between trade and labor rights. As a result, a majority of free trade agreements (FTAs) now include labor provisions.