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AFL-CIO Now

Mexican Unionists, Campesinos and Lawmakers Host TPP Seminar

Pictured from L to R: Rick Arnold from Common Frontiers, Alberto Arroyo from RMALC , Celeste Drake, Isidro Pedraza Chávez, Senator PRD party, Melinda St. Louis of Public Citizen. Second row: Alejandro Villamar of RMALC

Celeste Drake, trade policy specialist for the AFL-CIO, sends us this. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 14, in Mexico City, Mexico, the PRD group of the Mexican Senate, along with the Mexican labor federation UNT and the campesino federation CONORP, hosted a one-day summit looking at the social and economic impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP or Trans-Pacific FTA). The summit was held at the same time as delegations from the 11 TPP countries (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States) were meeting elsewhere in Mexico to negotiate the agreement. 

Speakers at the summit included Sen. Isidro Pedraza Chávez (PRD, Mexico), Melinda St. Louis of Public Citizen (U.S.), Max Correa, Secretary-General of CONORP (Mexico), Rick Arnold of Common Frontiers (Canada) and me—Celeste Drake, trade policy specialist for the AFL-CIO. About 50 people attended (including unionists, fair trade activists, campesino representatives, academics, PRD senators and a few members of the press). The event was broadcast live on Mexico’s Congress channel (the equivalent of C-SPAN in the United States). 

The topics ranged from an analysis of the impact of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 18 years later to existing trade barriers keeping Mexican products out of the United States and from the labor and environmental impacts of trade policy to the need advance an alternative to the neo-liberal economic model. I provided a report on TPP negotiations to date, which have already been in progress for three years even though Mexico is just joining. Next, I explained the U.S. government’s proposal of “co-existence,” a policy that would have the TPP and the NAFTA (the trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico) stand side by side, both equally valid, instead of having one of the agreement supersede the other. Finally, I provided information on some of the most controversial topics in the TPP negotiations, including the infamous “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) provisions, which allow a single foreign company sue an entire country in a private arbitration court to challenge laws or regulations it doesn’t like and strict intellectual property proposals, which could make prescription drugs and even certain surgical procedures more expensive.

At the end of the summit, a large coalition of Mexican organization issued a statement (in Spanish) regarding the TPP and discussed plans to create a campaign to educate Mexican citizens about this trade agreement and its importance. It is critical for the labor movements of Mexico, Canada and the United States to work in solidarity around the TPP. If the TPP continues down its current path, it will be just another trade agreement for the 1%—workers in all three countries simply cannot afford such an outcome. Instead of another neoliberal, corporate-driven trade agreement like NAFTA (which has cost America’s workers 700,00 jobs and degraded organizing conditions in all three countries), workers must unite to fight for a model that puts human rights over property rights.  Workers cannot afford to let national borders divide us—that will just put us in even fiercer competition in the race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Good jobs, secure labor rights and rising standards of living for all workers must guide the TPP negotiations. If they don’t, then why engage in these talks at all? 

Take action: Tell the president and his trade representative that the TPP must work for workers.  

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