Congressional leaders and the Bush administration yesterday took a major step toward a more progressive global trading regime after Democrats and Republicans agreed to strengthen labor standards and other key provisions in two pending free trade deals with Peru and Panama. A forward-looking proposal made in late March by Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Sander Levin (D-MI), chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and its trade subcommittee, respectively, provided the basis for this nascent bipartisan consensus on new trading accords.
The largest breakthrough in this bipartisan compromise involves workers’ rights.
Countries that sign trade agreements with the United States now must make fully enforceable commitments to respect the five basic international labor standards, as enshrined in the 1998 International Labor Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The deal that Reps. Rangel and Levin struck with the White House on this critical issue resembles a proposal made by CAP Senior Fellow Daniel Tarullo in his recent report, “A Sensible Approach to Labor Rights to Ensure Free Trade.”
The compromise also calls for a new Strategic Worker Assistance and Training, or SWAT, initiative to deal more effectively with the negative impact of trade on the livelihoods of some Americans and their communities. Finally, it lays down important markers on areas of national concern that are substantially affected by global trade, such as environmental protection, port security, investor rights, government procurement, and developing countries’ access to life-saving medicines.
This bipartisan compromise on trade policy encapsulates key progressive ideals to help promote decent work and expanded economic opportunity at home and abroad. Ensuring these ideals help define our trading relations with other nations will position the United States once again as the global leader of international trade policymaking.
Jonathan Jacoby is Associate Director for International Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress.
To speak with our experts on these issues, please contact:
For TV, Sean Gibbons, Director of Media Strategy
202.682.1611 or email@example.com
For radio, Theo LeCompte, Media Strategy Manager
202.741.6268 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For print, John Neurohr, Press Assistant
202.481.8182 or email@example.com
For web, Erin Lindsay, Online Marketing Manager
202.741.6397 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.