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.

TPP and Fast Track could be harmful to democracy.

The TPP would strengthen corporate rights and enable corporations to challenge democratically-enacted U.S. laws in special trade tribunals. The TPP would also strengthen our ties with states like Brunei that abuse their citizens, and prevent our own nation from using its policy tools to support human rights and oppose these despotic regimes. And rather than promoting American values and globalizing justice and equal rights, Fast Track would lock-in the worst aspects of the TPP by eliminating our representatives’ authority to choose our trading partners and amend any pact that the executive branch negotiates. The rights of women, the LGBT community, the sick, and the poor should not be thrown under the bus to advance the agendas of multinational corporations.

More information can be accessed at-

http://www.citizen.org/documents/tpp-fast-track-disaster-for-women-lgbt-communities.pdf

Brunei Human Rights Legislation poses challenge to TPP

A blog article, “State Department Lambasts Human Rights Violations in TPP Nations Vietnam and Brunei, Further Complicating Push for Controversial Pact” http://citizen.typepad.com/eyesontrade/2015/06/state-department-lambasts-human-rights-violations-in-tpp-nations-vietnam-and-brunei-further-complica.html found on the website Public Citizen, dated June 25th, 2015, discusses the human rights legislation in TTP countries Brunei and Vietnam . In a report by the U.S. State Department, recent legislation in Brunei criminalizes homosexual and extramarital relationships. These findings have brought more criticism by U.S. lawmakers to this already controversial issue.  What does Brunei have to lose/gain from their stance on these human rights issues with respect to the TPP? How does the passage of “fast track” affect the U.S.’s involvement in the TPP and do they have any say on Brunei’s human rights agenda? Should human rights issues be tied to involvement in trade talks like the TPP?

TPP and the history

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-origins-and-evolution-of-the-trans-pacific-partnership-tpp/5357495” , in this article by T Rajamoorthy, we understand the brief history of TPP and its emergence.

The original members included New Zealand, Chile and Singapore, and the FTA was called the Pacific Three. Later Brunei joined the cause.USA joined in 2008, realizing the potency of the agreement in making them more strategically positioned in the Asia Pacific region and boosting their finance and investment. The move was announced by the Bush Administration.The USA also pushed for the agreement to include more countries for its benefit. Later on Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Canada and Mexico joined the cause making the agreement now as the Trans Pacific Partnership. The latest member to join was Japan in 2012.

Will USA’s proposal to include more and more members in the agreement prove ill for their own benefits? Will the move backfire? Many economists and common people feel so… But President Obama is sure that the USA will be the ultimate winner. Many of the multinational companies are waiting eagerly for the approval of the agreement as well!

What the Trans-Pacific Partnership Means for Southeast Asia

An article published on July 27th, 2015 in The Diplomat (http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/what-the-trans-pacific-partnership-means-for-southeast-asia/) describes how the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be a huge step in the right direction for the four Southeast Asian countries of Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, and Malaysia that are involved in the negotiations. These countries could see significant financial and social reforms stemming from the TPP. For example, Vietnam and Malaysia currently have some of the world’s highest tariffs and non-tariff barriers against foreign businesses, which has reduced foreign competition and caused rapid growth in their economies. Even with their high tariffs, Vietnam still exported almost US$7 billion worth of apparel and US$2.4 billion worth of footwear to the United States in 2012. Upon completion of the TPP, Vietnam will be able to export to the United States at a 0% tariff rate, which will make their exports much more competitive in the American market and could significantly increase their share of the market. The phasing out of these high tariffs will also expose US domestic industries to more strict competition from overseas, but ultimately the new reforms stemming from the TPP will make these Southeast Asian’s economies stronger. Should the United States and other countries involved in the TPP want increased competition from overseas? Why would the Southeast Asian countries want to open the doors to change and reforms? What effect will the TPP have on industries in the United States? Could the TPP cause even more foreign imports into the United States and other similar countries?

What’s in TPP for the South East Asia?

The Diplomat reported in an article (http://thediplomat.com/2015/07/what-the-trans-pacific-partnership-means-for-southeast-asia/) that the smaller countries in the agreement, like Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam will benefit a lot from the TPP. Vietnam’s clothing and apparel industry particularly would get a huge boost by getting access to the US market with no duty to be paid. However, the position of the USA and Japan in this agreement, being the major players, leads to a situation where they could force their hand on the smaller players to give them the luxury they desire.

The fight now gets pulled to between the Human Rights and the Market specialists. What should be the priority this time around? Material benefit that helps boost economies or the ethical one which could be a moral obligation?