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AFL-CIO Comments on the Proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Negotiation



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On December 16, 2009, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) published in the Federal Register a request for public comments concerning the proposed Trans- Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPPTA) with Singapore, Chile, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Australia, Peru and Vietnam. The USTR states that it seeks to negotiate a “high-standard, 21st century agreement with a membership and coverage that provides economically significant market access opportunities for America’s workers, farmers, ranchers, service providers, and small businesses” and now invites public comments to assist it in developing its negotiating objectives for such an agreement. These comments are filed in response to that request and supplement our previous comments on the TPPTA filed with the USTR on February 25 and March 10, 2009.

The AFL-CIO welcomes the Obama Administration’s pledge to conduct a comprehensive review of the U.S. trade agreement template, though it believes that this should be done in advance of entering into new trade negotiations – not during such negotiations. The AFL-CIO also welcomes the administration’s promise to conduct frequent and substantive consultations with the Congress and civil society now and throughout the course of TPPTA negotiations. This signals a major shift from the way trade policy was formulated under the Bush Administration, which ignored the substantive input of unions and civil society organizations until the congressional elections of 2006 forced the Bush Administration to address in part some of our concerns.

The AFL-CIO is not opposed in principle to negotiating a trade agreement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. As always, however, the AFL-CIO will be unable to support a trade agreement unless it is well balanced, foments the creation of good jobs, protects the rights and interests of working people and promotes a healthy environment. We also note that to work, trade agreements must also be fairly and consistently enforced. Further, trade agreements, without complementary policies such as infrastructure development, export promotion strategies and active labor market policies, will not produce the outcomes desired. This document attempts to spell out many of the changes needed in our national trade policy to produce a good agreement that benefits us all.