Tuesday, May 15, 2007

FT: White House trades on Democrats’ terms

Democrats secured landmark reforms to labor and environmental standards in a deal struck between President George W. Bush and Democrats last week to revive US trade policy:

The concessions, which have angered business ­lobbyists and many Republicans, emerged from six months of painstaking negotiations as the price of rescuing trade policy from partisan warfare.

Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, described the pact as a response to public unease about trade deals expressed in the mid-term elections.

From now on, trade agreements passed by Congress would include the five core international labour standards: the right to organise, the right to bargain collectively, prohibitions on forced labour, protections against child labour and freedom from discrimination.

Critics of US trade policy also won provisions for quicker access to generic drugs in poorer countries, despite fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical lobby, which fears a costly precedent for the rights of poor countries to gain access to life-saving medicines.

In return, Democrats agreed to seek the passage of pending trade agreements with Peru and Panama – but not the more economically and politically significant deals struck with Colombia and South Korea.

The lopsided nature of the pact underlines the diminishing authority of the Bush administration as it limps towards the end of its term and reflects Democratic efforts to check the influence of business lobbyists.

Sounds good to me.

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