US unions vow to fight TPP deal

The TPP deal is a stark warning of what is likely to come on TTIP


This week the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal (TPP) was made available and, having seen the text, American unions have declared the deal ‘worse than we thought’.

The trade deal covers the US, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. The text was released by the New Zealand government.

Richard Trumka, of the US trade union umbrella group AFL-CIO, said:

We are deeply disappointed that our policy recommendations and those of our trade reform allies in the environmental, consumer, public health, global development and business sectors were largely ignored.

“The investment rules still provide expansive new legal rights and powers to foreign businesses to challenge legitimate government actions, the labour enforcement provisions are still inadequate to address the enormous challenges posed by this deal and the lack of enforceable currency rules subject to trade sanctions mean the promised new export markets may never materialise.”

The AFL–CIO says it will be examining the text line by line in the coming days to understand the deal’s full implications.

But, as Trumka said, “from what we have already seen, it is clear that the threats of this expansive new agreement outweigh its benefits for good jobs, for democracy, for affordable medicines, for consumer safety and for the environment”.

The United Steelworkers (USW), America’s biggest manufacturing union, slammed the deal and said it was unalterably opposed to the deal because it was a “dagger twisting in the heart of American manufacturing”.

Overall, the USW says TPP will provide incentives for US companies to outsource production and offshore jobs. For instance TPP’s rules of origin in automotives and auto parts would allow a country such as China to provide a majority of a car’s parts. The deal would not stop currency manipulation and would result in foreign workers continuing to suffer violations of their rights since protection provisions are limited – such as in Mexico where there is no agreement to labour reform – something demanded by US unions.

On the question of the Investor State Dispute Mechanism rules in the deal the USW says they “would give foreign corporations greater substantive and procedural rights than domestic firms to challenge government policies intended to protect the public interest”. Corporations could potentially receive taxpayer compensation under investor-state dispute (ISDS) resolution provisions when they challenge domestic laws.

US unions also say the text provides nothing to ensure that any of the provisions would be enforced.

The Wall Street Journal recently predicted the TPP deal would cause a massive trade deficit in manufacturing which would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses.

The early responses to the TPP deal should now act as a warning to European trade unions – especially those clinging to the hope that these new generation of trade deals will bring prosperity to their shores and that their hard fought for social and employment protections will not be effected.

The TPP deal is a stark warning of what is likely to come in continuing talks between the USA and the EU on TTIP and on what is likely to be in the EU-Canada deal known as CETA.

Tony Burke is assistant general secretary of Unite responsible for manufacturing

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