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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, Published on: 22 May 2007

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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