Brunei’s Christmas ban

In a December 23, 2015 article in the Washington Times, the ban on Christmas in Brunei is outlined. Brunei which is a member of the new TPP deal strictly prohibits anyone from celebrating Christmas under its Sharia law. This has raised eyebrows of many from the western world and some question why Brunei has been included in this new deal. What repercussions could Brunei see from this law? How will this law be enforced? Will the TPP deal be affected in any way?

Japan Will Benefit With Projected Increase in Southeast Asia’s GDP

In a January 8th article in the Nikkei Asian Review, It discusses the predicted implications for the 12 member TPP alliance. In a positive projection, all members GDP will increase by an average of 1.1%. Southeast Asian countries will benefit the most with Vietnam projected at a 10% increase, Malaysia at an 8% increase and Brunei with 5%. This all bodes well for Japan as many of these countries are looking to expand business opportunities for Japanese companies. How will Japan’s GDP be affected? What type of business will grow for Japan in Southeast Asia? Will these Southeast Asian countries really grow this much under the new TPP deal?

TPP Deal Set to Advance Human Rights

In an article in The Washington Blade, politicians discuss how the new TPP deal will advance human rights. The deal outlines standards including environmental protection, protecting intellectual property by multinational corporations, and anticorruption laws. Several countries, in particular Brunei, lack legislation that protects certain human rights. Primarily extramarital relationships and homosexuality are punishable under Brunei’s sharia based law. U.S. lawmakers say that the new deal, of which Brunei is a partner, is a first step in improving the human rights situation in Brunei. How will the new work standards help to pave the way for future human rights protection in Brunei? What consequences may Brunei see if it continues under its current legal punishment system? Will some countries still refuse to do trade with Brunei?

TPP will ‘advance human rights’

A State department official told that TPP will greatly aid the efforts to advance human rights in the Asia-Pacific region. The TPP will contain new labor and environmental standards, protects the IP of multinational companies and prioritizes “transparency and anticorruption” and also contains “enforceable standards” with regards to human rights.

Brunei, a part of TPP, last year began to implement a new legal code based on Sharia law that punishes those convicted of homosexuality by stoning to death. Malaysia also has history of conviction based on freedom of people like former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction under country’s anti sodomy law.

Jerame Davis, executive director of Pride at Work, said that it is inexcusable giving countries access to the markets without ensuring most basic human right protections for the citizens. Davis also argued against TPP because it would increase cost of antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV and make less available to these countries. Neela Ghoshal, senior LGBT researcher for Human Rights Watch told that there is no evidence that TPP includes any mechanism for promoting LGBTI rights in countries like Malaysia and Brunei. Also, the impacts of increasing the drug prices would affect these people who are poor and HIV-positive.

The Human Rights Campaign and the National Centre for Transgender Equality earlier in 2015 urged the White House to require Brunei to address their Human Rights violations ahead of the TPP negotiations. The State Department has criticised Brunei over its new penal code. Former Deputy Defence Secretary told during his speech that they will continue to take global leadership in defending and promoting human rights of LGBTI persons in TPP partner countries and around the world.

TPP Deal Reached

The recent trade deal reached between 12 Pacific countries, including the U.S. and Japan, was described as the ‘largest regional trade accord’ in history, in an article by the New York Times. The agreement is hailed as an important first step after two years of intense negotiations. The deal is set to open new markets, protect workers, and preserve the environment. While these 12 countries have an agreed upon deal in place, the next step will be for the agreement to make its way through each participant’s respective legal system. How might the current deal change as it is vetted through the respective country’s political processes? What are some benefits to the new TPP? What are some of the downsides to the new TPP?

Trans-Pacific Free Trade Deal Agreed Creating Vast Partnership

According to the article,, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the biggest trade deal in decades, was struck on Monday after five years of bitter and tense negotiations. The TPP cuts trade tariffs and sets common standards in trade for 12 Pacific Rim countries and covers about 40% of the world economy. However, although negotiations have been finalized, the deal is yet to be ratified by law makers in all 12 countries.

For President Obama, the TPP trade deal is a major victory. He stated: “This partnership levels the playing field for our farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers by eliminating more than 18,000 taxes that various countries put on our products.” In opposition, however, US Senator and US Democratic presidential candidate hopeful Bernie Sanders argues that Wall Street and big business have “won again,” stating that the TPP deal will cost US jobs and hurt consumers.

Additionally, China was not involved in the TPP agreement, however the Obama administration is hoping that it will be forced to accept the majority of the standards outlined by the TPP. He was quoted: “When more than 95% of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy. We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.”

Furthermore, the final round of TPP negotiations were delayed over how long pharmaceutical companies should be permitted to maintain a monopoly on their drugs. The US wanted twelve years of protection, while Australia and New Zealand argued for five. A compromise was reached, however the definitive protection period has yet to be confirmed.

Finally, the auto industry as well as the agriculture industry were also areas of intense negotiations. In regards to the auto industry, countries agonized over how much of a vehicle must be manufactured within a TPP country in order to qualify for duty-free status. Agriculture was another sticking point, as countries such as New Zealand wanted more access to markets in Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the US; Canada wanted to keep access to its dairy and poultry markets strictly limited, however.

Will the TPP really protect the worker?

Up until now the United States has never had a trade agreement that protects basic rights and raises wages and living standards for working people. Previous ones have failed to ensure integrity of the process and preserve environmental protections. The big question is whether this agreement will have improvements to the labor chapter over the years, and this has to be seen because the enforcement record has been pretty mediocre.

In 2010, the U.S. and Colombian governments with an eye to speeding the long stalled U.S.-Colombia trade deal, announced a labor action plan which was intended to bring Colombia into compliance with the internationally recognized labor rights. Since the plan’s announcement, 105 Colombian trade unionists have been assassinated and even in the new standard it is insufficient for the monumental task of creating a fair playing field. The labor movement has fought for more than 20 years to include labor provisions in trade deals. Workers in the U.S. and trading partners have economic interest in ensuring that basic rights are respected, and if employers can violate the right to unionize, then they can easily bring down the wages. That’s why AFL-CIO working with union federations from other TPP countries has offered suggestions to the government over past 5 years to improve the labor chapter and address previous failures of trade deals.

The recommendation from the labor party includes

(1) The right to bring labor claim based on a single egregious coalition

(2) Clear rules and deadlines that would require timely action on meritorious cases

(3) Protection for migrant workers

(4) Ban on goods produced with forced/child labor.

(5) Independent secretariat to study and review labor practices

(6) New standards related to labor inspections and decent work

There is no public draft of TPP, so the AFL-CIO doesn’t know yet whether any of the suggestions have been taken into the TPP. Countries like Vietnam, Mexico, Brunei and Malaysia are notorious labor and human rights violators which are out of compliance with the standards in the TPP. There is no plan to withhold TPP benefits for these countries. SO this raises serious doubts of whether TPP will create a level playing field for the workers.

That is why AFL-CIO is opposing Obama administration giving fast-track to the final deal. They say that the administration should release a public text and let the people judge for themselves whether this deal will truly raise labor standards and conditions for workers when in history every deal has been ineffective.