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Via Bloomberg BNA: National AFL-CIO Wants Workers’ Rights In Trade Deals

Published Thursday, January 12, 2017
by Tyrone Richardson/Bloomberg BNA

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The head of the National AFL-CIO and House Democrats are hoping President-elect Donald Trump and his recent pick for U.S. Trade Representative will put Workers’ Rights at the top of the list of demands during trade negotiations.

A group of Lawmakers and National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka made the case during a news conference at the Capitol in early January, a day after Trump said he would nominate Robert Lighthizer, a Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP lawyer, as U.S. Trade Representative.

Trade may be one of the few policy areas in which Trump and Labor Advocates - who have criticized previous agreements for being soft on Worker Protections - can agree.

“When Donald Trump was elected, ‘I made clear’ the Labor Movement ‘would work with him when possible, consistent with our values,’” Trumka said. “And while ‘many’ of the president-elect’s nominations ‘signal an alarming Anti-Worker agenda,’ trade is ‘an area where gains seem possible.’”

Trump promised while campaigning to renegotiate trade deals he dubbed unfair and said have caused U.S. job losses.  He specifically criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Agreement, the proposed 12-nation deal that Trump has promised to scrap when he takes office.

Labor provisions have historically been “weak” in trade deals, mostly because other countries have shunned “enforceable labor provisions,” Douglas Irwin, a Dartmouth College Economics Professor who worked on trade in Ronald Reagan’s Administration, previously told Bloomberg BNA.

Trumka and U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio (Democrat-Oregon) in early January criticized many of Trump’s Cabinet nominations, including billionaire investor and NAFTA advocate Wilbur Ross, who’s been tapped to serve as U.S. Commerce Secretary.

Lawmakers like DeFazio voiced some optimism over Lighthizer as the nation’s chief trade negotiator: “We know he did name a special trade representative who’s taken a ‘less conventional’ view of trade, but ‘not necessarily coming from the same progressive position we are in,’ in terms of ‘really benefiting’ American Workers.  But in naming him, Trump said ‘he wanted to fight for trade deals that put American Workers ‘first’ - and so do we.’”

The group of lawmakers also unveiled the 21st Century Workers’ Bill of Rights that they want to see included in future trade deals and that the U.S. should negotiate agreements with the following objectives in mind: Eliminate incentives to send jobs overseas; Scrap investor state dispute settlement procedures, which Unions have dubbed as unjust “corporate courts;” Require strong, enforceable Labor and environmental standards and bans on currency manipulation; Require strong rules of origin on cars, auto parts and other manufactured goods to dictate how much of a certain product must be made in a participating country to avoid tariffs; Eliminate procurement provisions that weaken the Buy American clause, which mandates the percent of products to be manufactured in the U.S.; and Eliminate tribunals that undermine U.S. trade enforcement laws.

Officials at Trump’s transition team did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

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