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Public Statements

Additional Statements: Free Trade and Worker Protections

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

(At the request of Mr. DASCHLE, the following statement was ordered to be printed in the RECORD.)

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, the Senate will soon consider implementing legislation for the Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreements. These FTAs are comprehensive in nature and will serve well the interests of the United States and these two very important trading partners.

However, I am increasingly concerned with the notion that the Chile and Singapore FTAs should serve as models or templates for future trade negotiations. I feel strongly that future negotiations must reflect the particular concerns and uniqueness of each trading partner. This seems obvious, but those who follow trade negotiations have warned that the Bush administration may claim that the standards of the Chile and Singapore agreements are universally applicable. I hope those warnings are wrong because provisions that are acceptable given the circumstances in Chile and Singapore may not be acceptable in agreements with countries in very different situations.

International trade enhances economic opportunity and can serve to improve workers' rights. As such, future trade agreements must build upon the progress made to date by including comprehensive worker protections and strong enforcement provisions.

Over the past decade, the treatment of labor and environmental issues in trade agreements has evolved both in emphasis and enforcement. NAFTA represents an early stage in this evolution, addressing labor and environmental issues in the context of the agreement, albeit in side accords. The United States-Jordan Free Trade Agreement was the first FTA to include labor provisions in the actual text of the agreement and to subject those provisions to the same dispute settlement procedure as all other elements of the agreement.

Although the Chile and Singapore agreements should be the next step forward in this evolution towards strong and effectively enforced labor and environmental standards, they are in fact a step back. Unlike the United States-Jordan FTA, the only labor provision subject to dispute settlement is the requirement that each trading partner enforce its existing labor laws. Furthermore, there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure that Chile and Singapore will strive to uphold basic international labor rights.

As we pursue future trade agreements, we must encourage policies that avoid a downward spiral in working or environmental conditions. Trade agreements must be a catalyst to improve these standards. To achieve this end, American trade policy must be flexible: we must maintain a broad adherence to basic principles and at the same time address the unique characteristics of each trading partner.

Maintaining this flexibility is of utmost importance in our ongoing trade negotiations with six Central American countries. These countries provide an entirely different set of political and economic conditions than Chile, Singapore, and our other FTA partners. The administration must not ignore the fact that critical differences exist between the CAFTA countries and Chile and Singapore in labor and environmental areas. A fully enforceable obligation to adopt and enforce basic labor standards will improve the broader socioeconomic dynamics in Central America. I have recently written to Ambassador Zoellick on this topic, along with Senators Baucus, Bingaman, and Jeffords. We expressed concern that the labor rights situation in a number of the Central American countries presents concerns of a significant degree different from those underlying the negotiations of the United States-Singapore and United States-Chile FTAs and urged that the CAFTA negotiations ought not be tied to previously negotiated agreements.

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I will monitor progress of future trade negotiations closely and fully expect to see substantial progress in several areas. In particular, the inclusion of basic worker protections, as well as strong monitoring and enforcement provisions, are necessary to meet the challenges of an inclusive and progressive trade policy.

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