Center for American Progress

Laboring for Trade Deals: Trade Agreements and Labor Rights
Press Release

Laboring for Trade Deals: Trade Agreements and Labor Rights

A new report was released today by the Center for American Progress that provides arguments for the trade discussion prior to the final Doha round. Congressional leaders and top officials in the Bush administration this week hope to find common ground on a new set of trade principles so that Congress can extend President Bush’s authority to conclude the final terms in the Doha Round of multilateral trade talks and several bilateral trade agreements.

“A Sensible Approach to Labor Standards to Ensure Free Trade” makes clear, the dispute-settlement mechanisms on labor provisions will be government-to-government only, which means cases will be filed only in the unusual circumstance where a government has a strong incentive to do so as it relates to trade. The nations with which we are negotiating trade agreements will rarely, if ever, have reason to challenge our nation’s labor standards under these five basic ILO labor principles:

  • Freedom of association
  • The effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining
  • The elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor
  • The effective abolition of child labor
  • The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation

These basic labor principles already underpin our nation’s labor standards. Furthermore, the Bush administration’s counter-proposal would be regarded as another example of cynical insistence by the United States that our laws should be binding on the rest of the world, thereby further compromising U.S. international leadership.
Daniel K. Tarullo, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress said, “If the administration has abandoned any real hope of completing its trade agenda and is looking to provoke an impasse in an effort to shift the blame for failure, the current rift may not be bridgeable.” He went on to said, “If, more optimistically, it is still serious about coming to an agreement with Congress, then there is no policy reason why the labor standards issue should stand in the way.”

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