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Trade Agreements and Environmental and Occupational Health

Policy Date: 1/1/1994
Policy Number: 9404

The American Public Health Association,
Observing the continuing globalization of the world economy, the associated cross-border public health problems, and the passage of significant new trade agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), MERCOSUR (Southern Cone Common Market), the Andean Pact, and the Global Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT); and
Noting the differences in occupational and environmental standards, labor laws, and public health infrastructure among trading partners;1-4 and
Having expressed concerns that NAFTA does not adequately address environmental and occupational health problems, and thereby sets a weak precedent for future trade agreements;7,8 and
Noting that trade agreements potentially could be vehicles for improving public health, raising living standards. and strengthening labor and community rights9,l0 and are not limited to mitigating or exacerbating the adverse outcomes of industrial policy;11-13 and
Noting the importance of the concept of harmonization in trade agreements, (i.e., making regulations, standards, services, or rights equivalent between two trading partners); and
Acknowledging the role of the United States in exporting public health hazards worldwide and having previously opposed its use of trade agreements to export such hazards;14-16 and
Having consistently endorsed the public health approach of prevention in environmental and occupational health matters;5,6,17,18 and
Having recognized the need for workers’ rights and the role of unions in promoting public health and similarly the role of communities in preventing environmental degradation and the need for community right-to-know;19-23 therefore
1. Reaffirms its commitment to the right to a safe and healthy work environment, to pollution prevention, to adopting international occupational health and safety standards, and to the provision of environmental and occupational health services;24-27
2. Encourages the upward harmonization of environmental and occupational standards towards the trading partner with the policies most protective of public health;
3. Supports the upward harmonization of labor rights and working conditions so that workers will have equivalent bargaining power across borders and encourages the conditioning of trade agreements in compliance with internationally recognized labor rights (freedom of association, right to organize and bargain collectively, acceptable conditions of work with respect to minimum wage, hours of work and health and safety, minimum age for employment of children, and prohibition of the use of forced labor) through the inclusion of workers’ rights statutes as they exist under the Caribbean Base Initiative and Generalized System of Preferences;
4. Encourages the upward harmonization of public health services through inclusion of the allocation of resources as part of the trade agreements to improve the existing infrastructure and provide professional education, training and technical assistance;28
5. Calls for the utilization of trade agreements to export superior environmental and occupational technology and to fund not only the promotion of exports but also the development of improved and appropriate technologies;29,30
6. Urges the requirement of public health impact studies of trade on (1) the environment, (2) the workforce, (3) communities, and (4) existing infrastructure as part of trade agreement negotiations;
7. Recommends the participation of nongovernmental review bodies from the public sector (labor, environment, public health, and communities) during the trade agreement negotiation process and for the promulgation of mechanisms for such bodies’ ongoing participation in decision making when challenges arise;
8. Urges the requirement for the creation of joint labor-management bodies as part of trade agreements to identify and resolve environmental and occupational health issues;
9. Urges that trade negotiations involve representatives from regional and international organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization, ILO (International Labor Organization), World Health Organization, and the United Nations to ensure the upward harmonization stated above in steps 2 through 4; and
10. Supports efforts to obtain sufficient funding for relatively disadvantaged trading partners from relatively more advantaged trading partners to ensure the upward harmonization stated in steps 2 through 4.9

References


  1. Pan American Health Organization. Summary of the first meeting of the Organizing Commission of the Year of Workers’ Health Initiative; February 26, 1992.

  2. Occupational Safety and Health. Differences between Programs in the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office; 1993. Publication HRD-94-15FS.

  3. Occupational Safety and Health and Child Labor Policies of the United States and Mexico. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office; 1991. Publication T-HRD-91-22.

  4. Comparison of Mexican and United States Occupational Safety and Health Legislation, Regulations and Enforcement. Detroit, Mich: United Auto Workers’ Health and Safety Dept; 1993.

  5. American Public Health Association. Policy Statement 9206: Toxic Reduction as a Means of Pollution Prevention. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  6. American Public Health Association. Policy Statement 9304: Recognizing and Addressing the Environmental and Occupational Health Problems Posed by Chlorinated Organic Chemicals. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  7. American Public Health Association. LB-2: NAFTA “Side Agreements”: Trade Laws Affecting Occupational Health and Safety and Environmental Health. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  8. Robinson I. North American Trade as if Democracy Mattered. Ottawa, Canada/Washington. DC: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives/International Labor Rights Education and Research Fund; 1993.

  9. Cavanagh J, et al. Trade’s Hidden Costs: Worker Rights in a Changing World Economy. Washington, DC: International Labor Rights Education and Research Fund; 1988.

  10. Hecker S. Occupational health and safety policy in the European community—Part 2. New Solutions. 1993;4(1):57–67.

  11. Working Group on Canada-Mexico Free Trade. Que pasa? A Canada-Mexico “free” trade deal. New Solutions. 1991;2(1):10–24.

  12. Peterson K. The Maquiladora Revolution in Guatemala. Schell OH, Jr, ed. New Haven, CT: Yale Law School, Center for International Human Rights; 1992.

  13. LaBotz D. The Mask of Democracy: Labor Suppression in Mexico Today. Boston, MA / Washington, DC: South End Press / International Labor Rights Education and Research Fund; 1992.

  14. Hardoy J, Mitlin D, Satterthwaite D. Environmental Problems in Third World Cities. London: Earthscan Publications Ltd; 1992.

  15. Castleman BI. The export of hazardous factories to developing countries. Int J Health Serv. 1979;9(4):569–597.

  16. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8713: Limiting the Export of Tobacco Products. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  17. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8912: Public Health Control of Hazardous Air Pollutants. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  18. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8712: Revising Occupational Health Standards. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  19. Berman D. Death on the Job: Occupational Health and Safety Struggles in the United States. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press; 1978.

  20. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8726: Toxic Chemicals in Agricultural Products. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  21. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8509: Occupational Disease Prevention: Increase Workers and Union Rights. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  22. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8714: Strengthening Worker/Community Right-To-Know. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  23. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8416(PP): Increasing Worker and Community Awareness of Toxic Hazards in the Workplace. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  24. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 7111: The Right to a Healthful Work Environment. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  25. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8312: International Occupational Safety and Health Standards. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  26. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 8311: Environmental/Occupational Preparation of Public Health Personnel. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  27. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 6507: Occupational Health Services. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.

  28. Rodriguez R. Global Experience with Environmental and Occupational Health Implications of Free Trade. Presentation at the SOEH Annual Meeting, September 1993. Washington, DC.

  29. Ashford N. Technological Innovation and International Trade. Presentation at the SOEH Annual Meeting. September 1993.

  30. American Public Health Association Policy Statement 7021: Principles for Environmental Protection. Washington, DC: APHA Public Policy Statements, 1948–present, current volume.