The Administration of Transparency Under the Labour Chapter of United States Bilateral Free Trade Agreements: Is the United States Creating a Glass House?

By Rebecca LaForgia.

Published by The Global Studies Journal

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The United States has recently entered into a number of bilateral free trade agreements with states from a variety of regions including the Middle East, South America and South East Asia. While these agreements are with a diverse range of cultural and political administrations, their creation forms part of a common foreign policy approach by the United States Government. As Zimmerman and Aaronson explain in their recent publication on Trade Policy and Human Rights “the U.S efforts to promote transparency and due process rights, within the transparency chapters of the FTA( as well as in other chapters), aim to make Americas FTA partners “glass houses” – open and transparent.” ( my emphasis). This article inverts this metaphor; it asks the preliminary question of what does the United States own glass house look like under these FTAs? To what extent the United States allows citizens of its bilateral partners to access the glass house, to view and participate in an open relationship with United States Governmental officials concerning matters covered under the FTA. It is this broader inquiry which tests the integrity of the normative claim that the United States is promoting international transparency. The article describes the concept of transparency and outlines the case study in which the operation of the labour chapter of the USFTAs are explored. Specifically the article considers whether transparency actually allows a space for the public thereby linking the administration of trade structures to the people. The artilce also offers some reflections on the difficulty and also the possibilities of embedding and operating a norm such as transparency through free trade agreements.

Keywords: Free Trade Agreements, Democracy, Labor, Transparency, Export of Norms

Global Studies Journal, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.49-54. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 563.527KB).

Rebecca LaForgia

Senior Lecturer In Law, University of South Australia Law School, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Is a senior law lecturer at the University of South Australia Law School. I have Masters in law from Cambridge University. I was awarded a grant to visit and conduct research at the United States Department of Labour in 2006, this present research arises from this study trip. I am interested in how normative ideas such as transparency and good governance can be transmitted through free trade agreements. My particular interest is US bilateral FTAs.

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