ITUC Calls For Halt To TPP Negotiations

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow calls for a halt to TPP Negotiations

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow calls for a halt to TPP Negotiations

The International Trade Union Congress has called for negotiations on a new trade agreement between the USA and nine Pacific Rim countries to be brought to a halt.

In a statement issued by Sharan Burrow, the General Secretary of the ITUC the ITUC said in consultation with trade union centres from TPP (Trans-Pacifice Partnership) countries called for negotiations to stop and seek for a new mandate that puts people and the planet first.

The ITUC said: “Although it seems that a labour chapter with a certain degree of enforceability will be part of the TPP, if TPP is ever agreed, we felt that this would not be enough to endorse the TPP. Indeed, the TPP establishes an ISDS, stricter IP protection, (de)regulatory coherence and other concerns explained below in our release and the letter. Besides, the labour chapter (as it stands now on the negotiation table) does not cover all core labour standards and sub-national labour law is not within the scope of the agreement. More to this, practical experience has shown that governments have been reluctant to use labour chapters. This is not to say that we do not support the labour chapter, but that TPP’s and any other future trade agreement’s impact on workers need to be considered as a whole”.

Together with the ITUC, the national trade union centres that support this call are: Australia, ACTU; Canada, CSN and CSD; Japan, JTUC-RENGO; Mexico, UNT; New Zealand, NZCTU; Peru, CUT and CATP; United States, AFL-CIO. Some of these trade unions, as well as the unions of Chile (CUT-Chile) and Malaysia (MTUC) had asked for the negotiations to stop at an earlier stage.

“TPP Trade Talks Must Stop”

 The ITUC has called on governments to stop negotiations on the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreement, criticising the secrecy and corporate bias in the current negotiations.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said: “This secretive trade deal is good for some multinational corporations, but deeply damaging to ordinary people and the very role of governments.  Corporate interests are at the negotiating table, but national parliaments and other democratic actors are being kept in the dark.  What we do know, much of it through leaks, is that this proposed deal is not about ensuring better livelihoods for people, but about giving multinational companies a big boost to profits.  Governments should shut down the negotiations, and not re-open them unless they get genuine and transparent public mandates at home that put people’s interest in the centre.”

 The current TPP proposals include provisions which would:

  • Make governments submit to so-called investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) procedures whereby investors can sue governments on a wide range of policies, including environmental and social policies ;
  • Introduce patent protections that would boost pharmaceutical companies’ profits, but put vital medicines out of reach for millions of poorer people;
  • Severely restrict governments’ ability to make national laws for public health, safety and general welfare with a ‘regulatory coherence’ chapter;
  • Stop governments from giving priority to public policy aims when making decisions about public procurement;
  • Impose a series of restrictions on governments’ abilities to regulate the financial sector, thus holding back efforts to reform damaging financial speculation and impeding governments from taking measures to maintain their balance of payment.

Proposals for protection of workers’ rights have met with heavy resistance from some countries, and appear to not cover all ILO Conventions that establish Fundamental Rights at Work or subnational (state and province) labour legislation.  The proposals also contain no enforcement for environmental provisions, and fail to address the need for action to mitigate climate change.

“A fair and open global trading system is essential to prosperity, but this proposed TPP is nothing of the sort.  Global and regional trade needs to create jobs and prosperity for the many, not just provide welfare for corporations and transfer more power from the parliaments to the boardroom,” said Burrow.

 National trade union centres in the countries negotiating the TPP are today formally calling on their governments to stop the negotiations, and to seek a proper negotiation mandate if they are to engage in the negotiations again.

Text of letter sent to TPP governments (note that each union centre amended and altered some of the contents of the text below)

November, 2014

Trade unions call on governments to stop the negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement

We regret that the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement continue to be conducted on flawed premises and under intense secrecy.

We previously warned that the tabled proposals are unlikely to lead to a more stable, equal and secure global economy based on decent work and asked for a fundamental redirection of the negotiations. The trade union movement has repeatedly advocated for a balanced agreement that serves all of your constituents’ interests, and not simply those of corporations. However, we note that as of today:

  1. The leaked draft environmental chapter does not contain any enforcement measures and it fails to take into account the need for climate change mitigation action.
  2. The investment chapter endorses a broad definition of investment and establishes access for investors to dispute settlement against governments. Trade unions, civil society, academia and law experts and parliamentarians from local and national levels have all called for investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms to be excluded but those calls have been ignored.
  3. The leaked draft intellectual property rights chapter shows that governments are negotiating to institutionalise a regime of unprecedented protection for patents, including on medicines. This will make access to drugs unaffordable for many people and public authorities, though it will increase the profits of multinational pharmaceutical companies.
  4. On the information available, TPP negotiators are seeking to constrain virtually all public procurement (national, subnational) to tenders governed by highly restrictive international rules. Unions have long maintained that governments should be able to prioritise criteria relating to public policy aims, such as job creation, environmental protection and human and workers’ rights, when awarding contracts for procurement.
  5. Similarly, unions and others have consistently and strenuously opposed any procedures or criteria that restrict governments’ ability to legislate and regulate to promote and protect the health, safety, and gen­eral welfare of its citizens. However,  the TPP regulatory coherence chapter and its services and transparency provisions introduces severe restrictions and intensify corporate influence into the process and content of regulating. Based on the available information, the services chapter includes a series of restrictions on governments’ powers to regulate the financial sector in ways that are necessary to provide economic stability and financial prudence. Similarly, several governments have been pressured to grant market access in public services and utilities that will jeopardise the quality of and public access to such services.
  6. Given the failure of previous labour chapters to so far produce meaningful improvements for workers, trade unions from the TPP countries called on governments to adopt a labour chapter that included high labour standards and effective enforcement mechanisms, as well as several new innovations. We see no indications that the many proposals of the trade unions have been meaningfully reflected.  Indeed, some proposals appear to retreat from stronger labour chapters now in existence.
  7. Keeping the negotiating texts and mandates away from public scrutiny is not an acceptable practice for a “21stcentury agreement” that aspires to set a “gold standard”. In order to create balanced and inclusive trade agreements, governments must publish relevant documents that will enable parliaments and civil society to contribute as well as warn against potential dangers from an early stage and certainly well before agreements have been concluded.

Further, it is worrisome that there has been no comprehensive and independent economic, social and sustainability impact assessment for all negotiating countries before or during the negotiations. The few economic assessments have been inadequate in their breadth and problematic in their methodology and assumptions.

This means that the negotiators are not informed of the agreement’s repercussions for workers, consumers, small and medium enterprises, the environment, national health budgets and democratic political systems, among others. In this light, the exclusion of parliaments, unions, and civil society organisations from meaningful participation in the process is wholly unacceptable.

As all substantive trade union concerns have been blatantly ignored, the trade unions centres in countries that are negotiating the TPP agreement demand that negotiations stopped until a new negotiating mandate and a transparent process is established.

We will be pleased to discuss these concerns regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement at your convenience.

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