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Could Biden Make US-China Trade Better for Workers?



If decoupling is not in the cards, the United States must find a way to ensure trade improves the lives of workers – on both sides of the Pacific.

In November, the Siberian anticyclone blows cold, dry air into Beijing.

The closest the United States has to this type of tiered citizenship is its 10.5 to 12 million undocumented migrants, whose wages are suppressed by a lack of legal status, as well as the 20 to 23 million Americans whose felony convictions hamper their earning potential.

Policy Opportunities

Since the 1990s even when labor provisions were secured in trade agreements, there was little hope of enforcement. Though 14 U.S. free trade agreements have labor provisions, only seven complaints have ever been submitted and only one resolved.

A Worker-First Approach to China

Like Vietnam, China’s industrial sector faced a wave of strikes in the 2000s and 2010s. In China, just as in Vietnam, reformers in the country’s single party-controlled union federation began to experiment with collective bargaining, especially in the manufacturing hub of Guangdong province. Talk about instituting a «right to strike» emerged amidst a strike wave in 2010.

This article was written by Michael Haack

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