Four Free Trade Agreements GAO Reviewed Have Resulted in Commercial Benefits, but Challenges on Labor and Environment Remain
United States Government Accountability Office
[Excerpt] Since 2001, Congress has approved free trade agreements (FTA) with 14 countries. Most were negotiated under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which aims to lower trade barriers while strengthening the capacity of trading partners to promote respect for workers’ rights and to protect the environment. The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for overseeing implementation of the FTAs, and the Departments of Labor (Labor) and State (State) have responsibilities for implementing and managing FTA cooperation projects. GAO was asked to assess progress through FTAs in (1) advancing U.S. economic and commercial interests, (2) strengthening labor laws and enforcement in partner nations, and (3) strengthening partners’ capacity to improve and enforce their environmental laws. GAO focused on Jordan, Chile, Singapore, and Morocco, chosen because of their economic, social, and geographic diversity and relatively older FTAs. GAO analyzed relevant trade laws and trends, met with U.S. agencies and foreign government officials, conducted fieldwork in the four countries, and solicited input from the private sector. GAO recommends that agencies update plans for implementing and overseeing FTAs to make the FTAs more effective in producing results. Agencies intend to do so but saw important progress.
Congress; public policy; international trade; free trade agreements; Trade Promotion Authority; Government Accountability Office