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If TTIP Trade Deal Puts People Before Profits, It Can Work, Say AFL-CIO and ETUC

The TTIP (the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed trade agreement between the United States and the European Union) is an opportunity to get trade and globalization policy right, say the AFL-CIO and the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the trade union federations that together represent tens of millions of workers. But this will only happen if the agreement is negotiated in an open manner, ensures that corporations cannot override governments and threaten the public good, promotes workers' rights and social justice and in all other ways puts people before profits. 

The AFL-CIO and the ETUC have published a set of guidelines that they hope will put negotiators on the path toward creating shared prosperity for workers worldwide. If the TTIP meets these principles, the federations are committed to campaigning for its ultimate adoption. But ignore these principles, the federations warn, and negotiators risk a trans-Atlantic campaign to defeat it.

Just what are the principles of trade and economic policy deal that would put shared prosperity and sustainable social and economic development at the center?

These principles include the exclusion of special legal rights for foreign investors (known as ISDS); inclusion of obligations to honor the internationally recognized core labor standards, developed by the International Labor Organization (ILO); protection of government prerogatives regarding public services (like health care) and public procurement (so that governments can include labor and environmental standards); guarantees that public interest laws to protect the environment, the banking sector and data privacy won’t be undermined; and public participation throughout the negotiation, implementation and monitoring stages. Find more details here

Speaking of the agreement last month in Berlin, ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol emphasized the importance of making sure corporations do not use the agreement to gain the “upper hand” against governments. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stated very clearly that the TTIP should seek to “raise standards for workers on both sides of the Atlantic,” not just maintain the status quo. If the TTIP met this high bar, it would represent a turning point in U.S. globalization policy—ending the vicious cycle of increased profits for multinational enterprises that come at the expense of workers and their families and creating a new virtuous cycle in which workers are empowered to work together, share fairly in the fruits of their labor and create an ever-increasing consumer demand and job growth. 

For more than a year now, the United States and the European Union have been negotiating the TTIP, one of the world’s largest trade investment and economic policy agreements—largely behind closed doors. Oh, of course, officials from both sides will talk about the TTIP publicly...but mostly in broad, sweeping generalizations, such as the E.U. DG Trade’s claim that it will bring an “extra €545 for a family of four in the E.U.” (without ever explaining by what mechanism the benefits would be so widely shared) or the United States Trade Representative's (USTR) claim that the TTIP will “protect the right of the governments to regulate in the public interest,” without ever explaining how the TTIP will be different than other trade deals that do not always sufficiently protect this right. 

The big thing that’s missing with the TTIP so far, and the problem with the USTR’s claims of transparency, is that this “transparency” fails to provide access to the negotiating text of the agreement. It’s as if Congress was moving a big bill—a bill that would affect job creation and government purchasing and banking regulations and labor rights, etc.—but kept the actual text of the bill secret the whole time. Would any American or European citizens stand for this? 

Standards for democracy shouldn’t be different because the TTIP is a “trade” agreement. A fair economy for all is on the line. And the stakes are too high for workers to be locked out of the room in which the decisions will be made. 

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