Judd Cohen


Using free trade agreements to increase labor standards in developing countries has not worked. Although most critics focus on lack of enforcement by the U.S., the real problem is the inherent tension between using free trade to make money, and spending money to improve labor standards. If the U.S. were to enforce labor standards, it would destroy the gains from free trade, which is why there is no incentive for developed countries to enforce the agreements. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the latest example of a U.S. free trade agreement that does not address the tension between trade and labor. This Note proposes that the only way to simultaneously continue free trade and improve labor rights is through a redistribution of wealth. By redistributing the gains of free trade, developing countries will have the means and the incentive to improve their labor standards. Developing countries will be incentivized to improve working conditions and build new manufacturing locations, because as improvements are made more money will flow in to continue the growth. Rich countries will be incentivized to enter into these agreements, because although they will be giving up portions of the gains of free trade at first, the redistribution will create wealth for all countries. Even though the rich countries will have to swallow a smaller percentage of wealth generation, the total amount of monetary gain will increase when there are more middleclass countries to buy from rich countries. Only through redistribution of wealth can the incentives of free trade be aligned to improve labor standards across the globe.