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Democrats Seek Workers’ Rights Protection Under TPP

As negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) plod on, Democrats are pursuing protection for workers under the agreement.

The TPP is a proposed trade agreement between the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Negotiations have been underway since 2010, and though controversial as many feel advantages will be greater for some nations over others, the goal of TPP is to enhance trade and investment among the 12 partner countries and promote economic growth and development.

Now a group of Democrats want TPP’s goals to incorporate stipulated standards for labor rights.

A total of 153 House Democrats called on United States Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman Thursday asking that the ongoing negotiations include more protection for international human and labor rights, especially for countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Mexico which have histories of workers’ rights violations.

In a letter to Ambassador Froman, the House members wrote, “We must do everything possible to prevent the American marketplace from being flooded with imports manufactured by workers laboring without human dignity and individual rights. The Administration must refrain from validating such woefully inadequate labor norms and the final agreement should be withheld until these countries embrace the need to reform their labor laws and move aggressively to implement them.”

On the heels of Vietnam’s recent unrest after China placed an oil rig in disputed waters off of its coast, the House members highlighted the nation in particular, writing, “In countries like Vietnam in which workers have faced extraordinary abuses, there must be binding and enforceable plans to bring those countries’ laws and practices into compliance with TPP labor requirements,” adding, “It is clear that Vietnam, in particular, must do substantial work to achieve a minimally acceptable level of respect for workers’ rights for a trading partner of the United States.”

The signatories are seeking substantial and enforceable plans to ensure that the future U.S. trading partners designated under TPP abide by “core international labor standards.” They have asked for Froman’s consideration and response.