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Inclusion of Environmental, Labor Issues in U.S.-Jordan Trade Pact Is Important Step To More Balanced Trade Approach

Oct. 24, 2000

Inclusion of Environmental, Labor Issues in U.S.-Jordan Trade Pact Is Important Step To More Balanced Trade Approach

Many More Steps Needed to Accomplish Broader Public Interest Trade Agenda

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? Today?s signing of a U.S.-Jordan trade agreement that contains labor and environmental provisions is an important first step in a lengthy path towards new trade and globalization policies that benefit the public interest, said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen?s Global Trade Watch. However, because the Clinton administration has refused to release the agreement — in contradiction to the administration?s vow to promote greater openness in trade matters provisions beyond the specific labor and environmental terms on which citizen groups have been briefed remain a mystery.

“By placing labor and environmental issues in the pact?s core text, the U.S. and Jordan affirm that these and other public interest issues are central to the globalization debate,” Wallach said. “However, the manner in which the labor and environmental issues are treated is specific to the U.S.-Jordan context, with different and additional terms needed on labor and environmental goals in more general trade pacts.”

The U.S.-Jordan context is unusual. Jordan has unusually comprehensive, strong domestic labor and environmental laws, and trade flows from Jordan are relatively small. Thus, the U.S.-Jordan agreement focuses on enforcement of existing labor and environmental laws that affect trade. Effective labor and environmental terms in other, broader trade deals will require a different approach. Also, the U.S.-Jordan trade agreement does not cover investment issues, so many vital labor and environmental issues connected to investment flows are not covered by this deal. Finally, key human rights, consumer health and safety, and other public interest issues that are vital to future pacts are not emphasized in this agreement. Wallach also questioned Republican motives for criticizing the deal.

“Even this modest but important step towards designing a trade policy more Americans could support is drawing attacks from Republicans,” Wallach said. “It begs the question of whose needs the GOP leadership?s trade policy represents besides narrow, corporate special interests.”

Public Citizen also praised the role of Jordanian and U.S. unions in demanding equal treatment for labor, environmental and commercial issues. The national consumer group criticized the administration for refusing to release the agreement?s text, thus keeping the American public from being able to review the details of the agreement and forcing public and press to rely on the administration?s characterizations of specific provisions.