Thursday, May 13, 2010

Aiming for a trade agreement that breaks with the past

It’s time for the next trade agreement to be a “21st century agreement.” That’s the advice that top union leaders from seven Pacific rim nations have for seven trade ministers who have started negotiating an unusual trade pact called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agrement (TPPTA).

In their May 10 letter the labor leaders, including President Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, urged the seven trade ministers, including Ronald Kirk of the United States, “to break from past practice and negotiate in a more open, transparent, and participatory manner.”

Toward that end, the union leaders recommended the creation of a joint TPPTA Website that would convey a full range of information about the on-going negotiations, including “white papers, draft texts, offers and counter-offers, press statements, and declarations.”

Access to the Website, and posting on it, would not be limited to the government side, but would “allow civil society to post documents (analysis, proposals, etc.) relevant to the negotiations by topic or by country.”

Another proposal is to establish “side rooms” (apart from the negotiating venue) “where accredited civil society representatives could be briefed from time to time during negotiations’ and where those representatives could also present their views.

“Consultation must also be on-going,” the union letter emphasized. “Throughout the negotiation process, governments must establish regular channels to ensure [that] civil society, including unions and employers, are able to meaningfully engaged in the negotiating process.”

Generally, such consultations have been routinely granted only to employer representatives – a point that the letter did not make.

In its final paragraph, the letter warned: “Without implementing at least these measures, any final agreement cannot count on broad civil society support.” Translation: the agreement won’t fly if employers are its only supporters.

The first round of TPPTA talks took place in Melbourne, Australia, in mid-March. The next round is scheduled in June in the United States.

Print Page

No comments: