Although it’s too early to tell whether the Trans-Pacific FTA will give U.S. workers a trade agreement they can believe in, some of the declarations and statements released by the negotiating countries are worrisome. For example, regarding labor rights, the “Outlines of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement” released in November 2011 reads: “TPP [Trans-Pacific FTA] countries are discussing elements for a labor chapter that include commitments on labor rights protection and mechanisms to ensure cooperation, coordination, and dialogue on labor issues of mutual concern,” but fails to mention core labor standards (as determined by the International Labor Organization) or even whether the labor provisions in the final agreement will be enforceable.
The Trans-Pacific FTA should not go back on the progress made in recent years—that is why the AFL-CIO has been fighting hard for a strong labor chapter that ensures that workers in every Trans-Pacific FTA country—including Vietnam—can exercise basic rights including free association and collective bargaining. While the president has voiced his strong support for labor rights, it is not yet clear that other Trans-Pacific FTA countries do.
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