Four Free Trade Agreements GAO Reviewed Have Resulted in Commercial Benefits, but Challenges on Labor and Environment Remain

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-09-439, July 2009

The four selected FTAs have largely accomplished the U.S. objectives of achieving better access to markets and strengthening trade rules, and have resulted in increased trade, as summarized in the table. While varying in details, the FTAs have all eliminated import taxes, lowered obstacles to U.S. services such as banking, increased protection of U.S. intellectual property rights abroad, and strengthened rules to ensure government fairness and transparency. Overall merchandise trade between the United States and partner countries has substantially grown, with increases ranging from 42 percent to 259 percent. Services trade, foreign direct investment, and U.S. affiliate sales in the largest partners also rose.

FTA negotiations spurred some labor reforms in each of the selected partners, according to U.S. and partner officials, but progress has been uneven and U.S. engagement minimal. An example cited was Morocco’s enactment of a long-stalled overhaul of its labor code. However, partners reported that enforcement of labor laws continues to be a challenge, and some significant labor abuses have emerged. In the FTAs we examined, Labor provided minimal oversight and did not use information it had on partner weaknesses to establish remedial plans or work with partners on improvement.

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