Labor's Wrong Tack on Free Trade
At its winter convention in Los Angeles, the AFL-CIO went on record as opposing any extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement to other countries unless future agreements contain requirements that the labor laws and environment regulations of the signing countries are as stringent as our own. That view is a barrier to any further trade agreements at all.
This isn't labor's first word on this issue. It vigorously opposed NAFTA because Mexico provides less protection for its workers and enforces its environmental laws less vigorously than we do. Labor believes that such an imbalance gives Mexico cost advantages that have killed U.S. jobs.
It is unclear after two-plus years of free trade with Mexico whether this is true, and few statistics suggest it is. Whatever the case, in the long run increased trade definitely creates the wealth that permits the improvement of labor and environmental standards that U.S. organized labor seeks. Unfortunately, Rep. Richard Gephardt agrees with labor's view and said so at its convention. Vice President Al Gore, who also spoke, offered a more sensible view. …