“Bipartisan trade deal” serves special interest, not the public interest

“A bipartisan trade deal” is touted on the U.S. Trade Representative’s website and is on the front page of the House Ways and Means Committee website. According to Ways and Means:

The agreement announced today is a fundamental shift in U.S. trade policy. Pending free trade agreements (FTAs) will be amended to incorporate key principles that will expand and shape trade in ways that spread the benefits of globalization here and abroad by raising standards.

Indeed, it is a “fundamental shift” — one that promises to subvert trade agreements to non-trade issues, principally labor and environment. Pushed hardest by U.S. trade unions and their proponents in Congress, and pressed by environmental groups and their champions, the “bipartisan consensus” will add mandatory and enforceable labor and environmental provisions to all pending trade agreements with Peru, Panama, Colombia, and Korea. The agreement is also touted as a “new template” that will also be incorporated into any legislation extending Trade Promotion Authority when it expires at the end of June 2007.

Those issues in the FTAs will be subject to the same dispute settlement procedures as the trade disputes, and fines and sanctions could be levied against countries that are “found” to have failed to meet the “standards” — and, of course, those are U.S. standards that we are imposing on those other countries.

In the case of the environmental mandates, the U.S will be enshrining certain Multilateral Environmental Agreements within the free trade agreements:

The list includes (with abbreviated titles) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, Convention on Marine Pollution, Inter-American Tropical Tuna Convention (IATTC), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, International Whaling Convention (IWC), and Convention on Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

What the agreement fails to recognize is that increased trade and economic growth for countries such as Peru, Panama, and Colombia could provide increased wealth and greater resources to address labor and environmental concerns. South Korea is a prominent example — just 40 years ago, South Korea was not the industrialized country it is today. In 1963, the per capita income was $100, and child labor was common on the farms and in the cities. Today, the per capita income is over $16,000, and attendance at the high school level is 95 percent. The major part of that economic growth resulted from trade.

The “bipartisan trade deal” may undermine the ability of developing countries to achieve similar success. Special interests, not the public interest, have been served.