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GAO Finds that FTAs Include “Limited Efforts to Promote Progress” on Environmental and Labor Rights

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this month examining American “free trade” agreements (FTAs) with Morocco, Singapore, Chile, and Jordan, to see if the agreements were advancing U.S. commercial interests and strengthening trading partners’ labor and environmental laws.  While the GAO analysis found positive commercial results, the report faulted U.S. agencies for uneven progress on environmental and labor goals and insufficient American involvement in promoting these goals.  The report lamented the “significant and sometimes worsening systematic deficiencies in certain partner nations” and was conducted at the behest of Senator Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). 

GAO concludes that, “Notably, USTR’s lack of compliance plans and sporadic monitoring, State’s lax management of environmental projects, and U.S. agencies’ inaction to translate environmental commitments into reliable funding all limited efforts to promote progress.” 

GAO’s study confirms that even the minimal provisions promoting labor and environmental rights in FTAs are not being enforced and further illustrates that all current FTAs need to be reassessed, as proposed in the TRADE Act
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