On the eve of the Dec. 7 meeting of trade ministers of the twelve countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment negotiations, Cathy Feingold, International Department Director of the AFL-CIO, released the following statement:
(Washington, DC) After nearly four years of negotiations, the trade ministers are on the brink of finalizing the TPP. Government trade negotiators often speak of the importance of “momentum” in such agreements, in order to provide “urgency” to make “needed compromises.” What they rarely speak of is the urgent need to make trade policy choices that will have immediate, positive impacts on the lives of people they are supposed to be representing.
Critical issues remain outstanding in the TPP, including provisions affecting the free exercise of labor rights, the conservation of natural resources, the affordability of life-saving medicines, and the extraordinary legal privileges that allow global corporations to use private courts to challenge laws and regulations they don’t like.
What American working people—and their counterparts in TPP countries—want to know is whether the TPP will create good, family-supporting jobs. They want to know if it will help reverse the race to the bottom that has led to wage stagnation and made it easier to suppress worker efforts to achieve fair contracts and a voice in the workplace. They want to know if the TPP will include strong, enforceable labor and environmental protections. They want to know if the TPP will lock-in austerity policies or if it will actually promote shared prosperity and help address economic injustice.
Unfortunately, America’s workers have seen no evidence that their trade negotiators have focused on these urgent quality of life issues. Unless the trade ministers can re-focus this agreement on the things that really matter to American families, they are likely to create more failed trade policy in their rush to completion, costing both jobs for workers and business opportunities for U.S. manufacturers.