BWI’s Asia-Pacific affiliates have condemned the so-called ‘Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership’ (CPTPP), which world leaders announced had been completed last week. The agreement – which devolved from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) after the US left upon President Trump’s inauguration last year – has been widely criticised by unions, academics and economists across the political spectrum for its secret negotiations and implications to magnify corporate power, inequality and environmental devastation.
“This deal has being sold as a ‘progressive trade agreement’, but it has little to offer in terms of trade benefits or progressive politics”, said BWI Regional Representative Apolinar Tolentino. “It does little to address the concerns of critics, including provisions on investor-state dispute settlement, restrictions on state-owned enterprises and rising pharmaceutical costs. In our view this agreement is simply designed as a placeholder, to entice a more liberal US administration back in to the fold in coming years.”
CPTPP differs little from its predecessor agreement. Just like TPPA the remaining eleven states – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam – have announced its completion and their intention to sign it without making any text of the agreement itself available.
Critics are, however, in a better situation to understand its content because it is largely based on the TPPA text. Rather than removing the objectionable provisions from the agreement, the remaining eleven member states have agreed to mutually “suspend” the provisions’ applications. This means the suspensions can be lifted at a later stage, as a trade-off to secure the consent of the US corporations that had championed the agreement, and hence US re-entry. Further negotiations have been largely achieved through way of side letters.
Without the US’s involvement, the side agreements that had been signed on labour with Malaysia and Vietnam – which would have required those states to implement rules to bring them in line with the ILO Core Conventions – will no longer apply.
Tolentino continued, “For the labour movements of Malaysia and Vietnam, the veil of confusion over how to approach this deal should now be lifted. The remaining labour chapter is practically unworkable and will do nothing to strengthen workers’ rights in the region, while its other chapters will go a long way to weaken workers’ bargaining power. The only thing progressive here is the progressive removal of rights.”
“We note the decision to sign the agreement on 8 March, which happens to coincide with International Womens’ Day. We also note that working class women will likely find it more difficult to exercise their fundamental human and worker rights as a result of this agreement. We object to this decision, and call on women across the globe to condemn this agreement.”