Trans Pacific Partnership and Labor

There is a lot of talk in the media about the confederate flag, as we have talked about here and here recently. This was, as we all should know, brought about because of the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina by white supremacist Dylann Roof. In the days following this something else also happened. On the 25th of June the Congress passed the “Fast Track” bill which gives them the ability to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP in a up or down vote. Meaning, they cannot make changes to the bill they can only accept it as the way it is or reject it as it is.

There has been media coverage of this, but to some extent it has been obscured by the talk about the confederate flag. Another issue with the media in regards to the TPP is the focus on fast track as opposed to the the trade deal itself. As we said above fast track is just a bill that gives the congress the ability to vote up or down on the trade bill itself. While the TPP is a large and comprehensive “Free Trade” agreement that will effect many many aspects of our lives.

In this article I will focus on some of the effects on labor. At the end of the article there are links to some great sites about the TPP, if you want more info.

It would seem that the basis of labor standards for the TPP is “it is better than nothing.” According to information that has been coming out (here and here) the White House has been saying that even if the provisions in the TPP are weak it is at least a basis on which to talk to countries that need to improve. Improve is putting it mildly, in Colombia, Malaysia, and Vietnam union organizers are routinely killed.

The obvious effect of the TPP on labor is the off shoring of jobs. As with NAFTA companies started moving factories to Mexico, just across the border in the maquiladora area and then, when China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), to China. Vietnam is considered to have even weaker labor standards than China and lower pay. So with the establishment of the TPP jobs will move to Vietnam. The TPP not only makes it easier for companies to off shore jobs but it encourages it.  This will further propitiate the lowering of pay and conditions all across the world as workers compete for any job they can get.

Another big effect of the TPP is the arbitration system it would create.  According to the website Stop the TPP, “Private corporations would be able to challenge domestic laws and regulations including those dealing with telecom, health and the environment. The TPP creates a special dispute resolution process that corporations can use to challenge domestic laws and regulations. Corporations could directly sue our government to demand taxpayer compensation if they think our laws limit their “expected future profits.”

We will hopefully be writing more on these trade deals soon.  Stay tuned…

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