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Labor advocates have long complained that international trade agreements are driven by corporate agendas and pay little attention to the interests of working people.Regional trade agreements, by contrast, have long taken labor standards aboard. The linkage in these agreements between preferential market access and adherence to core labor rights has become increasingly explicit.In the original North American Free Trade Agreement, signed in 1992, labor standards were shunted to a side agreement. Since then, U.S. trade agreements have typically included a labor chapter.According to its proponents, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have required Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei to improve their labor practices significantly – and Vietnam to recognize independent trade unions. And U.S. President Donald Trump's administration claims that its revamped agreement with Mexico contains the strongest labor provisions of any trade agreement. Labor rights are too important to leave to trade negotiators alone.To date, labor clauses in trade agreements have remained a fig leaf, neither raising labor standards abroad nor protecting them at home.
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