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Recent U.S. free trade agreements (“FTAs”) and comments from U.S. government officials suggest that obligations to respect and enforce internationally recognized labor standards could become part of the text offered by the United States for the negotiation of a bilateral investment treaty (“BIT”) with China. The trend of making labor rights more prominent in U.S. FTAs and BITs is likely to continue for agreements currently being negotiated under President Obama and a Congress controlled by the Democratic Party, including the U.S.-China BIT.

         The United States approaches its negotiations of BITs by working from a model text that has evolved from prior BITs and free trade agreements. In 2004, the United States developed a Model BIT that it has used as the basis for negotiating BITs and investment chapters in FTAs. The 2004 Model BIT contains a brief chapter on Investment and Labor providing that the parties may not weaken their domestic labor laws in violation of internationally recognized labor standards to encourage investment in their respective territories.

         Revisions to the 2004 Model BIT were being made last year, and reportedly will conclude with a new Model BIT text to be released by the government sometime during the next three months. The 2010 Model BIT is likely to serve as the foundation for U.S. negotiations of a BIT with China. Administration officials have not stated publicly the extent to which the 2010 U.S. Model BIT will include provisions protecting labor rights, and in some respects it would be logical to reserve agreement on labor rights for FTAs. FTAs cover a much wider range of policy issues than BITs, and application of international labor standards is more comprehensible in the context of agreements specifically addressing trade.

         Despite the logic, there are indications that the revised 2010 U.S. Model BIT is likely to include enhanced obligations to protect labor rights and to address breaches of those obligations. On May 10, 2007, Congressional Democrats and leading officials in the Bush Administration reached agreement on a set of labor rights provisions that were inserted in U.S. FTAs with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The Democratic Senator from Montana, Max Baucus, who is also Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and known to be an influential force on international trade issues, reportedly would like to see the labor rights provisions from what is now known as the “May 10 agreement” carried forward in future U.S. BITs, including the 2010 Model BIT. A July 2009 report to Senator Baucus from the U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the inadequate efforts, primarily of prior U.S. administrations, to ensure that governments with whom the U.S. had negotiated FTAs (specifically, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore and Chile) were making significant progress toward adoption and enforcement of fair labor laws. Thus, the interagency review of the 2010 Model BIT provides an opportunity to raise standards and expectations.

        Labor interests have exerted their influence inside the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative as the Administration has been developing its trade policy. Although the President’s promotion of exports in his State of the Union Address indicated a desire to expand trade, there remains in the Democratic Party suspicion of trade as a vehicle to export jobs as well as goods and services. Inclusion of apparently enforceable labor standards in international agreements would provide some cover against allegations that, were jobs exported, at least they would not be exported to foreigners working under substandard conditions.

         The Obama Administration has filled its ranks – in the White House and in several agencies – with officials who have strong views on protections for workers. Given the President’s and Democratic Party’s dependence on labor interests for their political base (a political reality China already has experienced in the application of the Section 421 safeguard over commercial tires), labor rights are likely to play an important role in the negotiation of a BIT with China, as well as any other BITs or FTAs negotiated during the Obama Administration.

         The “May 10 agreement” labor provisions that could be included in the 2010 Model BIT adopt the rights expressed in the 1998 ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work:

(a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;

(b) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor;

(c) the effective abolition of child labor; and

(d) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

          Recent U.S.-FTAs incorporate these rights as mutual, reciprocal obligations undertaken by the FTA partners. Parties must agree not to waive or otherwise derogate from statutes implementing these international standards in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties, and they must commit to effectively enforce their labor laws. They must ensure access to tribunals to enforce labor laws and procedural guarantees of transparency and due process.

          The agreements provide dispute resolution procedures in the event that these rights are not believed to be respected and enforced by the FTA partner. The process, however, is fashioned to blunt attacks on foreign labor practices. In the Korea-U.S. FTA, for example, the dispute process over labor rights is potentially lengthy, with multiple stages of consultation between the governments before an arbitral panel eventually is formed to adjudicate and the awards are not self-executing. Although the dispute settlement process does allow for compensation and sanctions as potential remedies for a party’s failure to implement an award, there are abundant opportunities for international diplomacy and negotiation to avoid an outcome requiring strict enforcement. The dispute settlement framework seems designed to cushion the effects of a violation of the labor obligations, and to allow governments opportunities to save face in the event of an alleged breach.

          Were the 2010 Model BIT to go beyond the text of recent FTAs by establishing well-defined labor standards with strict and efficient dispute settlement mechanisms, accession to such a BIT with the U.S. could be problematic for China. The All-China Federation of Trade Unions is the only legally authorized union in China, and critics claim that it is more interested in preserving stability for the government than it is in protecting workers’ rights. U.S. labor organizations have argued that even where China has the appropriate labor laws on its books, enforcement of those laws consistent with international standards remains unreliable. The Obama Administration has heard from some in the United States that China never will agree to the adoption and enforcement of international labor standards and reportedly is weighing those views carefully.

         A dispute-settlement model based on the Korea-U.S. FTA, however, might be palatable if China were to see in it sufficient flexibility for negotiation, diplomacy, and the ability to preserve a public face of sovereignty with respect to its labor laws. The United States currently appears to be making serious progress on BIT negotiations with China’s competitors, India and Vietnam. Were these countries to move more rapidly to agreement on the inclusion of meaningful protections for labor rights, competition and comparative advantage may create additional incentives for China to accept such provisions in a BIT with the United States. China might then hope to mitigate their impact, whether through the kind of consultation processes suggested in the Korea-U.S. FTA, or by maintaining the appearances of a commitment to enforcement as circumstances may require.
 

        最近美国签订的自由贸易协定以及美国官员的评述显示尊重并履行国际承认的劳动者标准可能被包括在美国为中美双边投资协定谈判提供的草案内。奥巴马总统和民主党控制的国会将继续提升劳动者标准在自由贸易协定和双边投资协定谈判中的地位。

        美国谈判双边投资协定的步骤是使用谈判范文,而这一范文建立在以往签订的自由贸易协定和双边投资协定基础之上。2004年,美国建立了双边投资协定谈判范文,并以此作为双边投资协定谈判和自由贸易协定投资章节的基础。2004年范文包括投资和劳动者权利章节,规定两国(地区)不可削弱本国劳动法、违背国际承认的劳动者标准以鼓励对本国(地区)的投资。

        2004年范文在去年得以修订,有报道称,美国政府将在未来三个月内出台新的范文。这一新出台的范文将成为中美双边投资协定谈判的基础。美国政府官员没有在公开场合澄清2010年版本将提供何种程度的劳动者保护;而从某些方面看,应将保护劳动者权利的条款保留给自由贸易协定。自由贸易协定比双边投资协定包括更多内容,同时在贸易协定中应用国际劳工标准更易于理解。

        尽管如此,种种迹象表明修改后的2010年版本将提高劳工权利保护标准、并增强惩罚力度。2007年5月10日,国会民主党人以及布什政府的主要官员就秘鲁哥伦比亚巴拿马南韩自由贸易协定中包括的劳动者权利条款达成协议。据报道,担任参议院金融委员会主席一职、在国际贸易领域拥有重大影响力的蒙塔纳州民主党参议员鲍卡斯(Max Baucus)希望俗称为“5月10日协定”的劳动者权利条款在2010年版双边投资协定范文等双边投资协定中得以延续。美国Government Accountability Office 2009年7月向鲍卡斯参议员递交的报告批评以往美国政府未尽最大努力,以保证与美国谈判自由贸易协定的国家(约旦、摩洛哥、新加坡和智利四国)在采纳、实施劳动法方面实现重大进展。因此跨部门审阅2010年双边投资协定范文将为提升标准和期望创造条件。

        当现任政府在制定贸易政策时,劳工利益团体已经在美国贸易代表办公室内发挥影响。虽然奥巴马总统在国情咨文演讲中表示将努力扩大贸易,民主党内仍充满疑虑、视贸易为输出工作的渠道。在国际协定中包含劳工标准成为反驳这些指控的保护伞,即使美国工作流向国外,也不是由于国外劳动标准过低造成的。

        奥巴马政府任命的官员中——白宫及几大政府机构———有一些官员对劳动者保护有强烈的个人观点。劳工集团是总统和民主党人的政治大本营(中国在421轮胎特保案中已经深刻领会这一政治现实),劳工权利很可能在中美双边投资协定谈判、以及其他双边投资协定和自由贸易协定谈判中扮演重要角色。

         2010年版双边投资协定范文中可能包括的“5月10日协定”劳动者权利条款传达了1998年国际劳工组织关于工作中基本原则和权利宣言:

(a)结社自由和有效承认集体谈判权利;
(b)消除一切形式的强迫或强制劳动;
(c)有效废除童工;以及
(d)消除就业与职业歧视。

        美国最近签署的自由贸易协定包括了这些权利,协定双方都将履行这些职责。协约国都必需承诺实施这些国际标准的法律条款不可减低或是免除这些承诺、以影响双边贸易和投资,而且协约国也必须承诺有效履行本国劳动法。他们必须保证可使用法庭推动劳动法的实施,并保证这一程序的透明和公平。

        当自由贸易协定伙伴不履行、尊重这些权利时,这些协议同时提供了争端解决机制。但是这一争端解决机制实际上却可用于抵制国外批评。以美韩自由贸易协议为例,劳工纠纷争端解决非常漫长,两国政府须先经过多个步骤的磋商才进入仲裁阶段,而且最后裁决并非自我执行。虽然争端解决机制允许对不履行仲裁裁决的国家实施制裁、或要求其赔偿,但是该国拥有众多外交或磋商机会回避严格执行仲裁结果。这一争端解决机制的设计似乎是为了减轻违背劳工承诺带来的后果;同时当政府面临指责时,给予他们机会挽回脸面。

        如果2010年版双边投资协定范文超越最近签订的自由贸易协定,详尽规定劳工标准以及制定严格、有效的争端解决机制,与美国签订这样的双边投资协定对中国而言问题重重。中华全国总工会是中国唯一合法的工会,批评者认为这一工会旨在维护政府稳定而非工人权利。美国劳工组织认为即使中国书面上拥有恰当的劳工法,但符合国际标准的实施仍难以实现。奥巴马政府已经听到美国国内的评论认为中国永远不会答应采纳、实施国际劳工标准,据报道奥巴马政府正认真考虑这些意见。

          如果中国希望保留谈判和外交余地以及公众颜面,那么类似于美韩自由贸易协定的争端解决机制模式也许对中国而言更合适。美国和中国的竞争对手——印度越南的自由贸易协定谈判似乎取得进展。如果这些双边投资协定谈判就保护劳工权利、竞争等内容取得具有实质意义的进展,那么中国将更有动力在与美国的双边投资协定中包含这些条款。中国也许将试图减弱这些条款的影响,或是通过类似美韩自由贸易协定规定的磋商机制;或是在需要的情况下,通过一委员会来实施。 

(翻译:朱晶)