|Free Trade Area of the Americas - FTAA|
COMMITTEE OF GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES ON THE PARTICIPATION OF
CONTRIBUTION IN RESPONSE TO THE OPEN AND ONGOING INVITATION
1) Three years after the establishment of the terms of discussion of the appended report, the topic is still open to discussion, notwithstanding important events that have occurred in the overall context (for example, the granting of fast-track authority to President George W. Bush).
2) Labor law inevitably entails costs for the employer, and these costs have repercussions for international trade.
Under certain conditions, the ability to compete internationally of
countries in which workers have a higher level of protection may be
harmed by countries in which workers have a lower level of protection.
3) The problem is not new, and it has been addressed through a number of
4) Other initiatives were taken by the organized international
community, which in 1919 created the International Labor Organization (ILO),
one of whose founding principles was that nations that provided
inadequate treatment to their workers hampered, for the reasons noted
above, improvements to the treatment of workers in other countries.
The topic has also been raised at the World Trade Organization (WTO). At
the 1997 Singapore Ministerial Conference of the WTO, trade ministers
resisted a bid by some developed countries to include a social clause in
trade agreements that would establish a link between the trade system
and respect for international labor standards.
5) Efforts to link international trade with respect for labor standards
have also been made within regional organizations, such as the European
Union (e.g., through the additional concession of generalized
preferences to countries that commit to abide by certain labor
standards) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (with its
complementary Agreement on Labor Cooperation).
6) Lastly, the linkage has also been expressed in bilateral agreements,
such as the trade agreement between the United States and the Kingdom of
Jordan, and the proposed agreement between the United States and Chile.
7) At the global level, unions tend to attempt to associate trade with
the respect for basic labor standards, through regulations and
sanctions. Global business, on the other hand, tends to resist that
linkage, instead reserving labor issues for specialized bodies, such as
8) The tendency of developing-country governments is to generally oppose
this type of linkage, since they understand that the latter can pursue
in reality or constitute in fact an imposition of non-tariff barriers to
9) In other words, a number of governments consider that in addition to
(or in lieu of) a genuine concern for labor rights, there may in fact be
an underlying "protectionist orientation," promoted by corporate
interests that influence the governments of developed countries
(symptomatic of this is the fact that some employer organizations in
developed countries, along with unions, support their governments when
the latter demand the insertion of a social clause in instruments that
regulate international trade).
10) The tendency to link labor law with international trade is also
reinforced by the globally organized resistance to market
liberalization, aresistance that is due not only to the pressure of
corporate interests, but also to the end of the Cold War and to the fact
that the "struggle against globalization" provides a suitable
opportunity for channeling opposition and even the frustrations of many
non-governmental organizations that have ample financial and media
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