From the TUC

Bush: trade sanctions on Bolivia for NOT restricting trade

20 Oct 2008, by in Economics, International

OK, to be honest, Bush’s sanctions on Bolivia are about Bolivia’s alleged failure to control drug trafficking, rather than trade generally. But I’m at a Wilton Park conference on labour/environmental standards in trade agreements, and the irony struck me. At our conference, trade unionists, employers and trade negotiators are disagreeing about whether the World Trade Organisation Doha Round should deal with abuses of the ILO core labour standards. We’ve been told that sanctions are inappropriate for dealing with cases of forced labour, child labour, discrimination and repressing trade unions. But there’s been little outcry at the Bush regime’s withdrawal of Bolivia’s trade preferences because he says Bolivia’s administration hasn’t done enough about the war on drugs.

The US labour movement, the AFL-CIO, disagrees with Bush’s action because they consider it politically motivated – he hasn’t applied trade sanctions to Peru, which has an arguably even worse record, for example. So, one rule for left-wing governments and another for centre-left administrations. Or alternatively, one rule for the war on drugs, another for the ILO’s core labour standards.

Meanwhile, the conference, which I’ll report on in full later in the year in an official capacity, has heard from all sides of the argument, and this morning heard from TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and UK Trade Minister Gareth Thomas MP. Hopefully their speeches will be on the web soon – they’re both worth reading. There’s no consensus in sight, sadly, but the conference has a day to run, and at least the issues are getting out in the open.