Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
As we reach the climax of the great battle over trade with China, it's worth taking a closer look at the main sticking point of this and every other major global agreement likely to arise in future years. There's widespread acceptance of the need for "global labor standards" and "global environmental standards." But apart from agreeing that no nation should permit forced labor, slave labor, employment of six-year-old children in factories seven days a week, and ocean dumping of nuclear wastes, there's almost no agreement on what labor and environmental standards actually mean. That's where the trouble begins.
The Cabinet met with the president in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on a sultry day in the summer of 1996. Many of us recommended that he not sign the welfare bill that the Republican Congress had sent him (the third one it had sent, only slightly less punitive than the first two, which he had vetoed). But an election was on the horizon, and the president's political advisers urged him to sign, lest Robert Dole use the president's timidity as a battering ram.