The 2007 US Trade Policy Template: Opportunities and Risks for Workers’ Rights

Source: Human Rights Watch, Number 2, June 2007

On May 10, 2007, congressional leaders and the US Trade Representative (USTR) reached an historic agreement on a “new trade policy template” (template) that has the potential to be an important step towards ensuring that workers’ rights are better protected in US trade accords.1 The template applies to the US-Panama and US-Peru Free Trade Agreements and could also apply to other pending and future US free trade accords. Human Rights Watch is concerned, however, that ambiguities in the template could prevent it from reaching its full potential.

Human Rights Watch believes that the template could lead to major improvements in the workers’ rights protections contained in US free trade accords and commends those who have worked diligently on its provisions towards this goal. Nonetheless, we fear that failure to resolve the template’s troubling ambiguities with strong, clarifying labor rights language could leave labor provisions in pending and future free trade agreements vulnerable to narrow interpretation, to the detriment of workers’ human rights and contrary to the spirit of the template.

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