Economy
7:00 am
Mon March 12, 2012

AFL-CIO Wants Broad Powers for New US Trade Agency

The new federal panel to investigate unfair international trade practices should have teeth, according to the AFL-CIO.

The nation's largest group of labor unions said the Interagency Trade Enforcement Center (ITEC) should be adequately funded and wield subpoena powers.

AFL-CIO Trade Policy Specialist Celeste Drake said the creation of the agency is a step in the right direction. She said it would investigate international incidents of price-fixing, illegal subsidies, and unlawful favors to attract specific businesses.

President Obama asked for $26 million to fund ITEC, and a staff of at least 50 people.

Drake said the president's executive order to create the agency was just three pages long, which left her group with some questions.

"It didn't specifically give anyone at ITEC the power to subpoena recalcitrant witnesses, which we think is a very important step in beefing up our trade enforcement," said Drake.

She said some companies are reluctant to speak up about unfair trade for fear of losing business, but a subpoena would compel them to testify.

Drake said the Department of Labor should also be involved in the agency, particularly when labor rights obligations in trade agreements may have been violated.