Making trade work – The TRADE Act

Posted on March 28th, 2010 by James

As I’ve mentioned before, international trade is seriously messed up. It is negotiated between unequal parties, meaning the countries with more power end up with policy that unfairly helps them, to the detriment of the less powerful countries.

Trade agreements can also disproportionately affect people within countries. For example, they can be written to really help corporations, while hurting small farmers, for example.

Currently, there are no (or at the very least, insufficient) checks and balances on the process of negotiating trade agreements. There is no mechanism for checking back in on an old one to make sure it is working and is actually beneficial.

Those are some of the gaps that the TRADE Act hopes to fill. The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, and has gotten cosponsors in both.

There are a few components to the bill-

  1. Calls for a check in on all trade agreements every two years. This will include an analysis of how each agreement has affected unemployment, wages, costs of goods, and paying special attention to agriculture.
  2. Requires any new treaties to include provisions on labor standards, human rights, environmental standards, food & product safety, and more. It won’t allow provisions that lessen a country’s already existing standards. It would ensure that farmers in all countries signing the agreement would get adequate returns.
  3. If these standards are not met upon review, the President has to submit a plan to renegotiate the treaty to make it satisfy the TRADE act.

So basically, it sets standards for trade agreement, calls for periodic review of each agreement, and requires the agreement to be renegotiated if it isn’t satisfactory.

I’m really excited to see this in both the House and the Senate. It shows that people are realizing that trade agreements are a powerful tool, and have been really misused. This bill cuts down on the likelihood that they can be abused by the powerful, and sets a good base level of standards that should be present.

Read the bills here (House, Senate), and I’ll try to keep track of it as it moves through the process.

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