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It is clear that Congress has the authority to require that any trade agreement negotiated by the president take into account environmental and labor issues. At least since 1974, U.S. trade laws have instructed the president to consider foreign worker rights and workplace conditions in ments. One U.S. statute, which negotiating trade agree fosters U.S. trade with developing countries, contains provisions for labor standards. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement contained specific provisions for protecting worker rights and the environment. More recently, the Trade Act of 2002 called for countries entering trade agreements with the United States to abide by the “core labor standards” of the International Labour Organization, including the freedom of association, the right to form unions and to bargain collectively, minimum age requirements and limitations on child labor, maintenance of safe working conditions, and a ban on forced labor. Some U.S. trade agreements also reflect environmental concerns. They do not set environmental standards, but they call for each nation to enforce its own standards and to ensure that environmental protections are not weakened in order to promote foreign trade.

President Trump made negotiating favorable trade agreements a major campaign issue and declared “America First” as the underlying premise of his administration’s efforts in that regard. Do you think the United States should require foreign countries to address workers’ rights and safety, as well as environmental harm in return for trade privileges. More generally, should trade be used to accomplish political and social objectives? Why or why not?

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