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  • AFL-CIO Report: Trans Pacific Partnership Lacks Worker Protections
    Updated On: Apr 07, 2016

    By JoAnne Pow!ers, February 17, 2016

    While proponents of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement between the U.S. and eleven other Pacific Rim nations have described is as a gold standard, and the most progressive trade agreement ever, the AFL-CIO released a report Tuesday highlighting the lack of worker protections in the TPP. Trade Policy Specialist Celeste Drake:

    “It can not legitimately be declared good enough simply because it contains marginal improvement to what has gone before. Taken as a whole, the TPP has more risks for workers than benefits, but specifically with respect to the labor chapter, it does not represent a meaningful improvement.”

    While the agreement does ostensibly include some language about labor rights, AFL-CIO Director of International Affairs Cathy Feingold says it has no teeth:

    “There are some things on paper that sound good, but it's how it will be enforced. We have no example, by the U.S. Government, of effectively enforcing any labor action plan or consistency plan of this nature. The United States, for the record, has never imposed trade sanctions or even a fine as a response to labor violations as a response to labor violations...”

    The TPP does require member countries to set standards for minimum wage, hours of work and occupational health and safety, but Drake says this is not enough to protect workers:

    “The fact is that TPP explicitly provides that these obligations will be satisfied, and I quote, as determined by each country, so that provides no new meaningful protections for workers.”

    The union is also concerned that the TPP would add no new provisions governing migrant laborers and human trafficking, especially important with the inclusion of Malaysia in the agreement, where the use of forced labor has been found in electronics supply chains:

    “It only requires parties to discourage trade in such goods, and again I quote, through initiative it considers appropriate.”

    The TPP does little to address concerns about member countries with dismal labor and human rights records, such as Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. In fact, it provides Vietnam with a five year grace period during which it can receive all TPP rights and benefits while denying its workers the right to freedom of association. The report also cites the lack of remedies for worker abuse and exploitation in Mexico:

    “Mexico has a blank check here. They get to come into TPP without committing to do anything around worker rights. Just leaving Mexico out and saying 'we're gonna let Mexico handles this in the way that Mexico wants to handle this,' ensures a continuation of the trading relationship between the U.S. and Mexico which has existed for more than 20 years, in which employers know for a fact that they can go to Mexico and violate workers rights, which keeps wages down there and keeps wages down here. They provide Vietnam with a grace period of at least five years during which it can receive all scheduled TPP rights and benefits while denying its workers the right to freedom of association.”

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