|FREE TRADE CAN LIFT LABOR STANDARDS ABROAD|
Aruba, November 1 2011 - The passage this month of free trade agreements may be a victory not only for President Obama, but also for workers in Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Although the anticipated economic consequences of these agreements are small, these pacts also offer a mechanism for improving workers’ rights in partner countries.
Some of the delay in completing the agreements was a result of concerns among legislators and activists about labor-related issues in Colombia and Panama. Since the early 1980s, various Congressional acts have required American trade negotiators to include conditions intended to insure fair labor treatment in free trade agreements. While the conditions can vary somewhat, they generally require promises from partner countries to prevent the use of child and forced labor, to require “acceptable” conditions of work, and to allow workers the rights to organize unions and bargain collectively.