Columbia Univ. professor Jagdish Bhagwati says US deal on labour & trade born of domestic protectionism, threatens global trade

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24 May 2007

Mixing labour standards with trade deals

Author: Professor Brian Towers, Nottingham Univ., letter to Financial Times

US labour clearly see advantages for their members and other unorganised workers...through inserting labour standards' clauses into trade agreements. But what are these labour standards? They include the elimination of child labour (undoubtedly a human right) as well as freedom of association, the right to bargain collectively and the right to strike. The International Labour Organisation also sees these last three as being on the human rights list. All are systematically denied by many countries - and not just the poorest - who trade with the United States... [A]re we to accept that the dubious benefits for all of free trade for poor countries (in many the freedom to starve) outweigh all other considerations important to the human condition? Nor is the US a world leader in advancing labour standards for its own.

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22 May 2007

Foes of free trade get a foot in the door [USA]

Author: [comment] Jagdish Bhagwati, professor of economics & law, Columbia Univ. & senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, in Financial Times

The agreement on trade between the Bush administration and the Democrats in Congress, announced on May 10, takes the demand for the integration of labour standards in trade treaties up a notch... [The] compromise to insert stronger protection of labour rights into US trade deals has dangerous implications for world trade... [The] developing-country trading partners of the US are generally opposed to the inclusion of labour (and other non-trade-related) requirements in trade treaties, agreements and institutions... The pursuit of labour standards in US politics today reflects not altruism and empathy, but fear and self-interest... Democrats...[in] Congress...[argue] that competition with countries with lower standards [is] harmful to the working and middle classes in the US. But this fear is not justified by facts... [The] strategy followed by labour lobbies has been to get a toe in the door, then another and another... [In] the proposed compromise, the ILO standards are to be demanded.

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16 May 2007

Dems Sell Out on Trade [USA]

Author: [editorial] Nation [USA]

...Democratic and Republican leaders [recently] announce[d] they have fashioned a "historic" bipartisan compromise on trade... [W]e think...the broad coalition of citizens--labor and environmental advocates and others--who want to reform corporate-led globalization [has been sold out]... It's true that the bargain includes strong new language calling for enforceable labor and environmental rights... [But the] claim that this labor/enviro provision will become the template for future trade agreements is bogus... The same claim was made for the labor rights provision in the Jordan trade 2000. It didn't change anything. In fact, Jordan has easily evaded what were thought--even by labor activists--to be solid protections... [US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] should insist that Bush commit himself to the same strong labor/enviro rules for the stalled Doha round of the World Trade Organization negotiations. That would be a real victory.

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