Trade Enforcement Wins

By Amrietha Nellan

First up labor...

In February, President Obama signed into law the Customs Enforcement bill which included a provision banning all imports made with forced labor. This closed a loophole that previously allowed products made with slave labor to enter the U.S. market, and it authorized U.S. Customs and Border Patrol enforcement. Guess what? It’s already working!

Just a month after going into effect, Customs is “aggressively” enforcing the law. The agency brought two orders against a Chinese chemical company for its poor labor practices, and seized a shipment of soda ash allegedly produced with prison labor. This is the first action of its kind since 2001, demonstrating how this important legislation improved the authority and capacity to enforce trading partners’ labor standards.

Now on to fair trade…

After the U.S challenged its subsidies programs at the WTO, China agreed to eliminate its subsidies program known as the “Demonstration-Bases Common Service Platform.” Under the former program, the Chinese government propped up exports with subsidies that artificially made their products cheaper — taking away market share from American businesses and harming U.S. workers. Well, not anymore.

The agreement eliminates China’s subsidies on goods across seven major industries ranging from agriculture to medical products and prohibits preferential service agreements by the government to Chinese export businesses. This is a major step forward in leveling the playing field for American businesses and workers, and it is a clear example of how U.S. leadership can make trade more fair.

What this all means…

These recent actions highlight the Administration’s commitment to legislation that promotes free and fair trade that protect workers at home and abroad, a commitment that continues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP establishes fully enforceable labor and environmental standards at the center of the agreement, and for the first time, prohibits unfair trade practices in export processing zones and state-owned enterprises punishable by trade sanctions. Actions often speak louder than words, and these enforcement actions remind us the TPP is an important part of the larger effort to build a 21st century economy that benefits workers more broadly. We must not waste this opportunity.