Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Toward a Fairer Trade Policy?

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel yesterday presented to the Administration a set of recommendations on future FTAs to increased labor and environmental protection. Rangel is laying out what the Democrats need to forge a new trade policy consensus and what will be needed for Bush to renew fast track and successfully complete the US-Korea FTA (KORUS). Fast track will expire at the end of June and the White House wants to make sure that the four trade agreements being considered are signed.

The endorsement of the proposal “would put fresh emphasis on environmental protection and access to low-cost medicines, as well as labor rights, in all new international trade pacts,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Modified texts of agreements will require: the adoption, maintenance, and enforcement of basic International Labor Organization (ILO) standards; and the implementation and enforcement of multilateral environmental agreements (such as CITES).

Finally, the Administration has been asked to strengthen American anti-dumping and countervailing laws against China.

Are we seeing the emergence of a fairer trade agreement? I made the case for such an approach in Policy Innovations in an article titled United States Must Redefine Fair Trade.

Such a policy tool may also provide one method by which basic human rights can be protected in the context of international economic relations. The lack of a binding international agreement on human rights that can guide business activities was a major concern of the panelists of a workshop we held last week at the Carnegie Council. We have uploaded audio clips of the panel "Taking Stock of Business and Human Rights." On the panel: Christine Bader of BP (audio clip), Joanne Bauer of Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (audio), Frank Mantero of GE, and David Schilling of Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (audio).

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