TPP Opponents Continue to Push Against Trade Deal
The Trans-Pacific Partnership was concluded half a year ago, and interest groups opposed to the trade are continuing their efforts to block the deal and to discredit some of its provisions.
The United States and eleven partners concluded the deal last October and signed it in February. Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress have yet to bring the matter to a vote and may not do so before the next president is inaugurated next January.
The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is warning that the U.S. Trade Representative and is counterparts are considering changing terms in the TPP to favor the pharmaceutical industry.
Meanwhile, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is pointing to problems with the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement to argue that TPP provisions will not improve labor rights and protections.
According to MSF, pharmaceutical companies have been pressuring TPP countries to extend the length of monopoly protection allowed for biologic health products, including many new vaccines and medicines, beyond the currently agreed term of five to eight years.
This, despite the fact that officially the TPP agreement is final and national ratification processes have begun in some countries.
The TPP agreement signed in February already extends pharmaceutical company monopolies. MSF as demanded tat the U.S. Congress reject the TPP as long it includes those provisions relating to pharmaceuticals.
With regard to the U.S.-Colombia FTA, improvements in labor standards in Colombia have failed to materialize, according to Shane Larson, CWA’s legislative director, “despite assurances and promises made as part of the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement. The failures of the Colombia labor plan underscore why similar promises to rein in labor abuses in countries party to the TPP, such as Malaysia and Vietnam, should be viewed with extreme skepticism.”
The U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement included a labor action plan that pledged to improve labor rights and eliminate violence against trade unionists in Colombia. Colombia has made no effort to comply, according to Larson, resulting in nearly 100 assassinations of labor leaders and nearly 1,000 death threats.
A complaint, to be filed with a division of the U.S. Labor Department, said threats and acts of violence against trade unionists in Colombia were neither properly investigated nor prosecuted.
The AFL-CIO and four Colombian unions said in the complaint that since the U.S.-Colombian trade deal took effect in 2011, some 99 Colombian workers and worker advocates were killed as they tried to exercise their rights. Six workers were kidnapped, and 955 death threats were received, the complaint said.
The U.S.-Colombia FTA was to guarantee Colombian workers the right to freely unionize and collectively bargain with employers. “The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal has similar provisions,” said Larson, “and also requires all 12 members, which include Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico and Peru, to establish minimum wages, working hours and occupational safety requirements.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in a statement, called the TPP labor provisions negotiated last year a “near carbon copy” of those in the Colombian trade deal and said they, too, would probably fail.