Trans Pacific Partnership – The Fight Continues

House Passes Trade Assistance Act

by Meteor Blades at Daily Kos

TPPWith only six Democrats opposed, the House of Representatives favored the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) program Thursday in a 286-138 vote. There were 175 Democrats and 111 Republicans in favor. The Senate passed TAA Wednesday.
The program provides modest financial and job-training help to workers displaced by trade agreements. It was passed as an amendment to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which extends trade preferences until 2025 for a number of African countries. If the legislation had not passed, the TAA program would have expired at the end of the fiscal year, September 30. Continue reading

Failed Trade Policies

South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board Supports Sanders Candidacy

by Paul Garver

bernie-150526-launch-shake

On June 13th the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO adopted the following resolution urging support for Bernie Sanders in 2016.  Thus South Carolina joins Vermont in urging the National AFL-CIO to support the Sanders campaign.

Given that Sanders wholeheartedly supported the tentatively victorious struggle by American unions to block the antidemocratic and anti-worker corporate power grab of Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, while Hillary Clinton maintained a resolute silence on the issue until as late in the day as possible, some other state and local AFL-CIO bodies might follow the lead of their colleagues in Vermont and South Carolina by endorsing Sanders..

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Resolution Urging Support for Bernie 2016
On June 13, 2015, the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO met and voted to adopt the following resolution:

Whereas: The SC AFL-CIO Executive Board is committed to building a broad, effective movement for democratic change, and
Whereas: Our goal is a government that carries out the will of the people, not prop up the profits of the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and
Whereas: We firmly believe that Senator Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate articulating our issues. His commitment to union principles and labor’s values is longstanding and heartfelt, and
Whereas: As a truly progressive candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, Bernie has the chance to inspire millions of Americans with policy proposals that put the interests of the labor movement, front and center. His campaign will draw attention to what unions and collective bargaining have accomplished for workers and energize our movement, and
Whereas: Labor must step up to fundamentally change the direction of American politics, by refocusing on the issues of our time: growing inequality and pervasive racism, the power of concentrated wealth and its corruption of our democracy, an escalating pension and retirement security crisis, runaway military spending and a militarized foreign policy, Medicare for All, and the need for new, bold solutions to our shared problems.

Therefore be it resolved that: We call on the AFL-CIO, union members and working people everywhere to unite behind Bernie Sanders and elect the President America’s workers desperately need, and
Be it further resolved that: The South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board strongly urges the AFL-CIO to support Bernie Sanders 2016 and his campaign to become the nominee of the Democratic Party for president.

Adopted on June 13, 2015 and respectfully submitted for consideration to the AFL-CIO by the SC AFL-CIO Executive Board.

Backdoor Deals over Fast Track Show the Bankruptcy of the Corporate Trade Agenda

AFL-CIO Communications Department

FastTrackRally

[Editor’s note:  This may be our last post before the crucial vote in the House on “Fast Track.”  This statement from the AFL-CIO Communications Department updates the latest cynical maneuvers to ram this deeply anti-democratic payoff to corporate capitalism down the throats of the 99%.

However I quibble over one bit of terminology – namely the reference to the “Democratic” values and concerns that are being savagely violated by this legislation.  Worker rights, human rights, climate justice, internet freedom are genuine “small d” democratic values, but if they were indeed the concerns and values of the “large D” Democratic Party, then why is the titular head of the Democratic Party and his Administration so committed to the passage of Fast Track and the TPP? 

In fact a battle has been joined over the divided soul and essence of the Democratic Party.  Fast Track may or may not prevail by a few votes tomorrow, but in any case the AFL-CIO may have to decide whether to join other progressive movements  in a firm commitment to create our own autonomous political institutions apart from pro-business-as-usual centrist Democrats. – Paul Garver]

The House Republican amendments to the suite of trade bills that began in the Senate back in April demonstrate—for anyone who still had doubts—the total bankruptcy of the corporate trade agenda. In order to advance an unpopular, undemocratic, failed trade policy, the Republican majority has to play games that make sausage making look good.
When House Democrats refused to fall in the trap of cutting Medicare in order to pay for trade adjustment assistance, the Republican leadership relented by changing the pay-for, but in order to save the Fast Track bill, the procedural mechanism developed by the Rules Committee will allow Democrats to vote against the Medicare cut before they vote for it.
In order to buy votes from a skeptical Republican caucus, Republican leadership has loaded up what had been a positive and useful trade enforcement package with new “trade negotiating objectives” that undermine long-held Democratic values, like addressing climate change and ensuring rights for migrant workers. Two of the TPP’s major weaknesses include inadequate worker protections and no climate change provisions. These new trade negotiating objectives could ensure these provisions never make it in to the TPP or any other trade agreement.
A currency provision has been stripped from the Customs bill. This provision, supported by Senators Schumer, Brown and others, was potentially the most critical enforcement tool in the entire package. It would have allowed the US to treat currency manipulation as a countervailable subsidy. Stripping this provision will cost jobs.
On the other hand, language weakening a provision that would have forced countries to address human trafficking before that country could be included in a fast-tracked trade deal with the US has been added to the Customs bill. This weakening undermines the promises made about how the TPP will protect workers.
All of these last-minute procedural manipulations and unconscionable amendments are designed to secure Republican votes, with no consideration whatsoever for Democratic concerns or values.

Our TPP Negotiators are Determined to Win the Race to the Bottom

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Trade deals write the rules for globalization. That is, they determine who will be winners, and who won’t.
Under NAFTA-style trade deals, the winners have been pharmaceutical companies, big polluters, banks and companies like Nike who scour the earth for the lowest wages and weakest regulations.

One ray of redemption is the promise of high-standard 21st Century labor and environmental provisions. With good international standards, civil society can balance the power of global corporations and share gains.
Stop laughing. We need to get this piece right.

Bill Clinton promised us enforceable labor and environmental standards in NAFTA. He never enforced those standards. George Bush promised us enforceable standards in the “May 10th Agreements” which would fix NAFTA. He never enforced them.

Now, President Obama promises us high-standards labor and environmental protections with meaningful enforcement in his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Our lived experience is decades of failure to enforce labor standards.

President Obama’s promise is eloquent and inspiring. It would be more convincing if he had pursued even a single meaningful enforcement action after hundreds of killed labor activists in Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras, and over 1,300 reported death threats. Our inaction has been a bitter disappointment to workers in Central America, Mexico and the U.S. We have never applied our leverage by suspending trade preferences in a trade agreement.

By chance, TPP has given us a clear opportunity to demonstrate commitment to high-standard labor protections.
The Senate recently approved Fast Track — procedural legislation that Congress will use for TPP. The Senate version of Fast Track appropriately excludes countries with the worst records for human trafficking, forced labor and child labor. The U.S. State Department ranks countries each year, and Malaysia, one of the 12 TPP countries, falls into that worst category called “Tier 3.”

The Malaysian electronics industry uses forced labor for 28 percent of its workforce to make products for well-known U.S. companies. Forced labor and child labor drive its garment and palm oil industries.
Malaysia relies on its very weak human trafficking practices to give it a competitive advantage in global markets.

Recent press reports from Malaysia document unimaginably poor conditions for refugees, who are held for ransom, traded from one kidnapper to another, tortured and murdered. This is 21st century slavery.
The Senate version of Fast Track does exactly what President Obama promised — if you meet international standards, you can have favorable access to our markets. If you fail to meet those standards you lose favorable access. When you improve, you regain favorable access. The Senate’s version of Fast Track can improve the lives of thousands of workers in industries that anchor Malaysia’s economy.

Incomprehensibly, the Obama administration is asking House members to weaken the Senate’s language to let Malaysia into TPP without any actual improvement in workers’ conditions. It would let Malaysia maintain human trafficking exactly the way it is now.

Malaysia has successfully ignored the State Department’s engagement on human trafficking for at least a decade. The President engaged Malaysia in 2012 and 2013 with waivers, suspending a drop to Tier 3 status. Malaysia’s enforcement against human trafficking actually declined in 2014.

Malaysia knows exactly what risk it runs with the labor provisions in TPP, because they helped negotiate TPP’s labor chapter, with the help of US industry advisors. Malaysia can confidently ignore the labor standards in TPP, in light of our decades of ineffective enforcement in Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia under previous trade deals.

If the administration is able to weaken the Senate’s human rights language, we will be sending a message to the world that the President will sacrifice labor and environmental standards at the first opportunity. Once again, the interests of Intel, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, AMD, Texas Instruments and Dell would mean more to our trade negotiators than the suffering of refugees, exploitation of a quarter of the workers in the Malaysian electronics and garment industries and the children working in the palm oil industry. Corporate interests would mean more than the grief of families of men women and children showing signs of torture recently found in 139 graves.

If the administration and House members shrug off Malaysia’s poor human rights record, they are sending a message to the rest of the Malaysian economy and any other country that competes against Malaysia in the global economy: The U.S. will not enforce global rules on human trafficking.

It is worth noting that five other TPP countries — Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico and Brunei — are on the Tier 2 list — bad, but not the worst.

Over 150 House members signed a letter questioning Vietnam’s labor record and TPP. Over 100 House members also opposed trade concessions for Brunei, which criminalizes gay lifestyles under Sharia law. Mexico has successfully resisted improving its labor laws for the 20 years since NAFTA.

If Congress accepts the administration’s weaker condition, the message to Tier 2 countries is that exploiting workers carries no meaningful consequences. That message will certainly carry through into human trafficking in our own communities.

Our negotiators seem determined to win the race to the bottom.

On the other hand, if Congress excludes Malaysia from TPP, the five Tier 2 countries could take a lesson to improve. We will finally use the leverage we’ve always had to make other countries live up to written commitments.

TPP proponents talk about “setting the rules” so that China won’t. Our engagement on human trafficking is a clear test of which rules we value, and the kind of leadership we will express through our trade policy.
It’s clear that the Obama administration has had no interest in enforcing labor or environmental laws. Our negotiators have been criticized repeatedly for ignoring their labor advisory committee.

Fast Track gives Congress a fine opportunity to express our values as a country, and show that workers can be winners, even over objections from the Obama administration. The House should approve the Senate language and make Malaysia improve its human rights record.

Stan Sorscher is Labor Representative at Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), a union representing over 20,000 scientists, engineers, technical and professional employees in the aerospace industry. Follow Stan Sorscher on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/sorscher
Reprinted from HuffPost with permission of the author.

A Trade Deal at What Cost ?

HaroldMeyersonAIDHarold Meyerson.

So what gives with the American people? Don’t they realize, as my colleague Charles Krauthammer argued last week, “that free trade is advantageous to both sides”?

The sides to which Krauthammer referred, of course, are nations. But perhaps those who’ve experienced such free-trade consequences as factory closings and lower-paying jobs are thinking about two entirely different sides — capital and labor. Trade promoters cite David Ricardo’s 200-year-old assessments of trade’s benefits to nations, but skeptics can mine a rich vein of mainstream economics that demonstrates how trade deals can, and frequently do, benefit major investors at workers’ expense.

As a letter to The Post noted this week, future Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson wrote in 1955 that, under free trade, “national product would go up, but the relative and absolute share of labor might go down.” More pointedly still, another Nobel laureate, Bertil Ohlin, showed that as a result of trade, a nation’s workers could see their wages decline even if none of them lost their jobs.

Samuelson and Ohlin have been proved right. Increased trade with lower-wage nations over the past 30 years has resulted in both massive offshoring of manufacturing and wage decline for most U.S. workers. As economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson have demonstrated, Chinese import competition has lowered wages not just for displaced manufacturing workers in this country but also, on average, for all workers in their midst. Continue reading

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