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Joint Statement by AFL-CIO, CLC and UNT on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement

The AFL-CIO, the CLC, and the UNT, the national labor organizations of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, join in urging caution regarding the announcement that Mexico and Canada have been invited to join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP).

Although we would welcome a TPP that creates good jobs, strengthens protection for fundamental labor rights—such as freedom of association and authentic collective bargaining—protects the environment, and boosts global economic growth and development for all, American, Canadian, and Mexican workers cannot afford another corporate-directed trade agreement.  Good jobs, secure labor rights, and rising standards of living for all workers must guide the TPP negotiations.

To have a positive impact on working families in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, the TPP must break from NAFTA, which imposed a destructive economic model that expands the rights and privileges of multinational corporations at the expense of working families, communities, and the environment.  The model of globalization enshrined in NAFTA promotes a race to the bottom in terms of wages, labor rights, environmental protection, and public interest regulation.  By suppressing demand, this model became a leading cause of the current global recession.

To exit the global recession, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico must abandon the low-road growth model of NAFTA, and instead pursue a trade model that includes the promotion of fundamental labor rights included in the ILO core conventions; the creation of high wage, high benefit jobs; and the preservation of domestic policy space so that nations can conserve their natural resources, stabilize their financial markets, ensure food and product safety, and otherwise promote the public interest without fear of investor-state lawsuits.

Moreover, the negotiations must make clear that any improved provisions for workers in the TPP will override any corresponding harmful provisions in NAFTA—otherwise, working families will have gained little.  As important, any stronger provisions in NAFTA must remain in force or be reincorporated into the TPP.  In particular, the NAFTA labor side agreement (the NAALC) includes protections for migrant workers—a protection largely absent in subsequent U.S. FTAs. The AFL-CIO, CLC, and UNT strongly believe that the TPP should ensure that migrant workers are able to enjoy the same rights and protections as a country’s domestic workforce.  In addition, migrant workers must be protected from fraudulent or abusive recruitment schemes.

The ultimate impact of the TPP on working families in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico is by no means certain.  It will depend will depend entirely upon its rules.  Therefore, it will be impossible to celebrate the inclusion of Mexico and Canada until the specifics of the agreement are known.  To the extent that key TPP provisions represent enforceable improvements over NAFTA rules, Canada’s and Mexico’s accession has the potential to benefit working families in all three countries.  If instead, the TPP follows the neoliberal model and substitutes corporate interests for national interests, workers in all three countries will continue to pay a high price in the form of suppressed wages, a more difficult organizing environment, and general regulatory erosion, even as large corporations will continue to benefit.

We call on our governments to work with us to include in the TPP provisions to ensure strong worker protections, a healthy environment, safe food and products, and the ability to regulate financial and other markets to avoid future global economic crises.

Contact: Josh Goldstein (202) 637-5018

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