Monday, April 19, 2004

ZOELLICK SETS US STRAIGHT


Thank g-d we have Robert Zoellick looking out for our best interests, because unions are too ignornat to know what's good for them.

Unions should embrace free trade agreements, because these are the best way to improve workers rights, Zoellick argues. Here is how well Zoellick is doing with improving labor standards in China, the country with whom the US continues to have record high trade deficits.

Zoellick writes: Partners in our free-trade agreements must commit to effectively enforce their labor and environmental laws. This requirement is backed by an innovative process to review disputes and impose fines on countries that fail to abide by their obligations. The fines are not just penalties: Funds are to be channeled back into fixing labor or environmental problems. The United States is the only country pushing for these kinds of enforceable trade provisions.

Isn't that nice? Zoellick often points to the US-Jordan FTA--the first to include any mention of labor laws within the agreement proper--to prove this point that the US is tough on labor standards in trade agreements. Unfortunately, the agreement only admonishes Jordan to enforce the labor laws it has on its books (should those laws change or be gutted, c'est la vie). But Jordan shouldn't worry because--wink, wink--Robert Zoellick has no intention of enforcing those labor provisions in the Jordan FTA.

Here is what Zoellick wrote to the Jordanian ambassador back in July 2001:

His Excellency Marwan Muasher
Ambassador
of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to the United States


Dear Mr. Ambassador:

I wish to share my Government's views on implementation of the dispute settlement provisions included in the Agreement between the United States of America and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the Establishment of a Free Trade Area, signed on October 24, 2000.

Given the close working relationship between our two governments, the volume of trade between our two countries, and the clear rules of the Agreement, I would expect few if any differences to arise between our two Governments over the interpretation or application of the Agreement.

Should any differences arise under the Agreement, my Government will make every effort to resolve them without recourse to formal dispute settlement procedures.

In particular, my Government would not expect or intend to apply the Agreement's dispute settlement enforcement procedures to secure its rights under the Agreement in a manner that results in blocking trade.

In light of the wide range of our bilateral ties and the spirit of collaboration that characterizes our relations, my Government considers that appropriate measures for resolving any differences that may arise regarding the Agreement would be bilateral consultations and other procedures, particularly alternative mechanisms, that will help to secure compliance without recourse to traditional trade sanctions.

Sincerely,

Robert B. Zoellick
United States Trade Representative
United States of America


(Emphasis added).

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