The US-VN Plan for Enhancement of trade and labor relations

There has been some time since the TPP full text has been in the public view. If we look closely, there is a separate section for labor relations with Vietnam (https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/TPP-Final-Text-Labour-US-VN-Plan-for-Enhancement-of-Trade-and-Labor-Relations.pdf), Malaysia and Brunei. Of all three, Vietnam is the most expansive plan clearly signaling how important Vietnam is to US for trade deals. In many blogs, there has been criticism of current Labor practices in Vietnam and also the supposed US soft stand on those issues(Article credit: “After Trans-Pacific Partnership Text Released, Labor Advocates Say Human Rights Protections ‘Not Enforceable’”, by Abigail Abrams, 11/05/15 http://www.ibtimes.com/after-trans-pacific-partnership-text-released-labor-advocates-say-human-rights-2171278). But if we see from a normal standpoint (I am not commenting on the legality of the agreement or enforceability), TPP can usher in a bevy of reforms in Vietnam. The agreement calls out for a variety of reforms, especially for formation of labor unions, their autonomy and effectiveness, formation of ministry and department of labor, abolishment of forced or debt labor, provide capacity for labor department, child labor and the implementation of the same. Also, Vietnam will have to be transparent on its budget, inspection and status of unions. Most of these articles need to be implemented by the time TPP is in force. Only one article regarding enactment of laws for formation of labor unions across enterprises and verticals has to be implemented in five years, which is currently being contested by International Labor Organizations. However, is getting in 90% of reforms better than having nothing at all? Can the pressure of having these reforms be considered a violation of Viet Nam’s sovereignty? And which courts will the violations be addressed in?

 

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