The International Labor Organization Becomes Relevant: Bush and Congress to Incorporate ILO Standards in Trade Agreements
President Bush and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Congress have reached an agreement on a bipartisan trade policy to be applied to all future U.S. free-trade agreements. According to one account, the new policy commits U.S. trade partners
to adopting and enforcing laws that abide by basic international labor standards as outlined in a 1998 International Labor Organization declaration. It would prohibit those countries from lowering their labor standards.
I haven’t found a copy of the proposed policy online yet, but this sounds pretty much like what analysts have been predicting for some time now. (And here is the text of the 1998 ILO Declaration. As a practical matter, this new approach could both pave the way for new free-trade deals, but also put labor regulations front and center in future free trade negotiations.
One legal issue to keep an eye on: Some folks (like the WSJ editorial page) have argued that the U.S. itself is not in compliance with ILO standards and that such an agreement will commit the U.S. itself to changing its domestic labor laws. I assume some sort of compromise on this point has been reached, but I will wait for the actual text of the policy or a revised free trade agreement to see if how this issue was dealt with.