“Will TPP promote higher labor standards?”
TPP’s strong and enforceable labor provisions will promote higher labor standards. In fact, TPP more than quadruples the number of people outside the United States that are covered by enforceable labor provisions.
TPP requires countries, through strong, enforceable provisions, to:
- Protect the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively;
- Prohibit and eliminate exploitative child labor and forced labor;
- Protect against employment discrimination;
- Set acceptable conditions of work concerning minimum wages, hours of work, and workplace health and safety;
- Prevent degradation of labor protections in export processing zones — designated areas that often have lax labor rules in other countries, allowing them to compete unfairly; and
- Combat trade in goods made by forced labor, including forced child labor, in countries inside and outside TPP.
TPP also establishes specific labor reforms that Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei must undertake to meet their TPP obligations. The United States will not bring TPP into force with these countries if the reforms are not made. And we will not hesitate to take action against any countries that fail to live up to their obligations in the labor chapter, including through trade sanctions.
And in addition to TPP representing a renegotiation of NAFTA by holding Mexico to the fully enforceable labor provisions listed above, Mexico is also developing parallel labor reforms, including to better protect collective bargaining and reform its system for administering labor justice.
“What will TPP mean for the environment?”
TPP’s groundbreaking provisions will help the environment. In fact, TPP includes the most comprehensive environmental commitments we have ever negotiated in a trade agreement and represents a significant opportunity to address pressing environmental challenges like illegal fishing and overfishing, wildlife trafficking, and illegal logging.
TPP partners account for approximately one quarter of global seafood catch and global timber and pulp production. This is why TPP is a historic opportunity to advance conservation and environmental protection across the Asia-Pacific. TPP includes pioneering commitments to combat illegal fishing, wildlife trafficking, and illegal logging, as well as first-ever commitments to prohibit some of the most harmful fisheries subsidies.
Groups like the World Wildlife Fund, The Humane Society, and The Nature Conservancy have praised TPP’s environmental chapter because TPP launches a race to the top, by requiring effective enforcement of environmental and conservation laws, enhancing transparency and public participation in environmental decision-making, and requiring stepped-up action and cooperation to address the region’s pressing environmental challenges.
TPP also eliminates tariffs on environmentally-beneficial products and technologies, such as solar panels, wind turbines, wastewater treatment products, air pollution control mechanisms, as well as air and water quality monitors. By reducing barriers to trade on environmental technologies, these goods can be made more accessible to everyone.
“What will TPP do to combat forced labor and human trafficking in countries like Malaysia?”
TPP is one of the best tools we have to fight forced labor and human trafficking. It requires countries like Malaysia to prohibit forced labor, and we’ve already seen Malaysia take critical steps to make progress by passing anti-trafficking legislation this year.
President Obama has said, “Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time, and the United States will continue to lead it.” And there’s no doubt that forced labor and human trafficking continue to be a serious problem in Malaysia.
Here’s why TPP is one of the best tools we have to improve the situation: TPP requires Malaysia and other TPP member countries to prohibit forced labor, which will be backed by dispute settlement and sanctions in case countries do not comply.
This represents a major step forward in regional and international efforts against human trafficking. We are working directly with Malaysia and others on actions they can take to ensure they meet this commitment.
TPP has also given us leverage to push for progress before the agreement is even entered into force. After several years of delay, in June, 2015, the Malaysian Parliament passed critical reforms to its anti-trafficking legislation, which include:
· Allowing trafficking victims to move freely and work;
· Giving broader access to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to work with trafficking victims;
· Allowing courts to award trafficking victims damages; and
· Establishing a High Level Committee to work on trafficking-related issues.
That’s not enough, and the problem remains serious. And we are committed to doing everything we can to address it, including using TPP to hold Malaysia accountable.
“Won’t countries like Vietnam still have low labor standards even with TPP?”
If Vietnam doesn’t improve their labor standards, they won’t see the economic benefits of the agreement. It’s as simple as that, thanks to the binding and enforceable rules in TPP. By linking Vietnam’s access to our market to their upgrading their labor standards, the United States has new leverage to ensure that Vietnam improves their labor protections. And if they don’t, we won’t hesitate to take action against them through trade sanctions.
Vietnam will be required by TPP to put in place a host of new labor protections, including protecting the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively, strengthening bans on forced labor, and improving protections against employment discrimination.
We have worked with Vietnam, along with Malaysia and Brunei, on a specific plan for labor reforms that they need to make before the agreement takes effect. If they don’t make those reforms, we will withhold access to our market until they have met those commitments. This way, we can ensure that Vietnam follows through on promised reforms.
And we will not hesitate to take action against any country that fails to live up to their obligations in the labor chapter, including through the imposition of trade sanctions.
“Is it true that Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) would allow corporations to override laws, including environmental and public health regulations?
No. ISDS cannot change law in the United States or any other country. No government measure (federal, state, or local) can be blocked or reversed under the ISDS provisions or any other part of TPP. The United States would never negotiate away its right to regulate in the public interest, and we don’t ask other countries to do so either. This is true with regard to public health and safety, the financial sector, the environment, and any other area where governments seek to regulate.
Put simply, ISDS is a mechanism to promote good governance and the rule of law. ISDS protects basic rights — such as protection against discrimination and expropriation without compensation — akin to those enshrined in U.S. law and the Constitution. We already provide these protections at home to foreign and domestic investors under U.S. law. That’s why — although we are party to 51 agreements with ISDS — the U.S. has never lost an ISDS case. Our trade agreements ensure the same kinds of protections to U.S. businesses and investors operating abroad, where they face a heightened risk of discrimination and bias.
TPP includes a number of enhancements that strengthen the transparency and integrity of the dispute settlement process under ISDS. These include making hearings open to the public, allowing the public and public interest groups to file amicus curiae submissions, ensuring that all ISDS awards are subject to review by domestic courts or international review panels, ensuring that governments have a way to dismiss claims that are without merit on an expedited basis, and more.
In addition, after consultations with Members of Congress, the United States pushed for and secured additional safeguards that will establish a code of conduct for ISDS arbitrators and facilitate the dismissal of frivolous claims, among other first-of-their-kind provisions.
ISDS ensures that a wide range of American businesses — including small businesses — are protected against unfair discrimination when investing abroad. This will benefit the millions of American workers employed by these companies, as outside analysis shows that about half of ISDS cases are initiated by small- and medium-sized businesses, or individual investors.
“Will TPP undermine Dodd-Frank?”
No. Wall Street Reform is one of the President’s signature achievements, and he would never sign anything that would undermine it. TPP explicitly preserves the right for the United States to regulate its financial system.
President Obama fought hard for financial reform, and would never do anything to jeopardize Dodd-Frank. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act represents the most comprehensive reform of the U.S. financial system in more than 70 years. Nothing in our existing trade agreements prevented the United States from putting in place the important safeguards contained in Wall Street Reform that are making our financial system safer, more stable, and better-positioned to support growth today. And nothing prevented the Administration and the Federal Reserve from responding aggressively to the 2008 financial crisis and preventing a second Great Depression. Similarly, TPP does not in any way tie our hands to regulate the financial sector to protect American consumers and the broader American economy from harm or to act in times of financial crisis.
On the contrary, TPP expressly preserves the government’s ability to impose, maintain, or expand measures to protect the integrity and stability of the financial system.
The bottom line is that TPP does not impede on our ability to respond to financial or economic crises or to regulate our financial markets, firms, and specific types of financial products.
“Will TPP weaken food safety standards in the U.S.?”
No. TPP will require no changes to U.S. food safety laws or regulations. Nothing in TPP prevents the United States from setting and enforcing our strong food safety standards.
TPP is an opportunity for America to launch a race to the top, encouraging other countries to move toward our higher standards. TPP will in no way weaken our food safety laws or regulations. Instead, the agreement is an important tool to help improve food safety systems in other countries.
TPP allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue to effectively provide Americans with one of the safest food supplies in the world, including by working to better align food safety systems in other countries with our own.
TPP helps improve food safety systems in countries we trade with by better aligning their standards with U.S. safety and regulatory systems. For example, Vietnam is already developing stronger food safety regulations in preparation for TPP.
“Will TPP disrupt our immigration system or affect domestic immigration law?”
No. There is nothing in TPP that changes U.S. immigration law, policy, or practice. TPP explicitly recognizes and affirms the ability of each country to regulate the entry of foreign nationals into their territory according to their own domestic laws.
The United States did not agree to anything in TPP that would require any modification to the U.S. immigration system or any changes to the U.S. visa system.
TPP does include a short chapter on temporary entry, which is narrow in scope and would not require any change in U.S. immigration law, policy, or practice. Although other countries have made commitments in this area, the United States has not made any temporary entry commitments.
“How does TPP address currency manipulation?”
All TPP countries have made robust commitments in a joint declaration to address unfair currency practices.
We have worked with macroeconomic authorities of TPP countries to secure a joint declaration that recognizes our mutual interest in addressing unfair currency practices. The declaration includes (1) exchange rate and macroeconomic policy commitments that reflect IMF and G-20 standards; (2) transparency and reporting commitments on intervention data and other key data relating to currency valuation; and (3) a robust consultation mechanism among senior-level exchange rate officials.
The commitments will provide an important mechanism to address unfair currency practices.
At the same time, nothing in the joint declaration or TPP gives foreign countries the power to challenge our monetary policy. The American people have consistently said that they do not want trade agreements to tie our hands and prevent us from regulating as we see fit. Why should monetary policy be any different? Enforceable currency provisions were not included in TPP, because such provisions would have given our trading partners the power to challenge our legitimate monetary policy. Nearly every living former Federal Reserve Chair, CEA Chair, and Treasury Secretary agrees — Republicans and Democrats alike.
In addition, the Administration has made clear that it is inappropriate for any country to try to boost its exports or gain a competitive advantage by devaluing its currency. Through direct one-on-one negotiations and multilateral platforms like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the G-20, and the G-7, we have made substantial progress in moving countries away from devaluing their currencies to gain a competitive advantage.
“Will the TPP limit accessibility to affordable, life-saving medicines?”
No. To the contrary, TPP helps improve access to medicines for developing countries, while also promoting strong intellectual property protection that provides incentives for innovation that will deliver life-saving cures for the next generation.
TPP strikes a balance that helps make life-saving medicines more widely available, while also providing incentives for innovation of tomorrow’s new medicines.
TPP eliminates tariffs on medicines and medical devices, helping lower costs for hospitals, clinics, aid organizations, and consumers. For example, tariffs on life-saving medicines like amoxicillin, penicillin, and anti-malarial medicines will be eliminated, reducing the cost to access these drugs for residents of lower-income TPP countries.
For the first time in any trade agreement, TPP requires trading partners to tighten enforcement on counterfeit drugs that threaten consumer health and safety. TPP strengthens health and medicine supply systems throughout the region by promoting government transparency and due process standards based on those found here in the U.S.
Additionally, TPP explicitly recognizes the Doha Declaration on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and Public Health, which affirms the rights of countries to take measures to protect public health.
Finally, nothing in TPP restricts access to medicines in the United States, requires changes to U.S. intellectual property laws or regulations, or weakens the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, or the Veteran’s Health Administration.
“Is TPP another SOPA or PIPA?”
No. On the contrary, TPP enshrines openness and the free flow of trade and data across country borders in the fastest-growing region of the world.
We believe that the power of the Internet rests in ensuring that anyone who is connected can reap its benefits. That is why we are committed to an open Internet based on the values of free expression, privacy, security, and innovation.
But under new forms of protectionism, we’ve seen unprecedented attempts to roll back Internet freedom and access to U.S. products and services. That’s why TPP puts in place strong rules that make sure the best communications tools and platforms are not unduly limited by trade barriers and laws that restrict the flow of data and information or requirements that companies must store data locally.
TPP would not change the existing and well-established U.S. rules for responding to the serious problem of Internet piracy. So, TPP is not SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) or PIPA (PROTECT IP Act). TPP will protect legitimate digital trade, and will not, for example, require ISPs to monitor their systems.
“Will TPP help the U.S. auto industry?”
Yes. TPP will bring major benefits to Made-in-America auto workers and auto manufacturing. It will eliminate tariffs, simplify customs procedures, ensure protections on intellectual property, improve rules of origin, and open up Japan’s market to American autos.
U.S auto workers and manufacturers will benefit from tariff elimination for autos and auto parts by all TPP parties, including the elimination of Malaysia’s current 30 percent foreign tax and Vietnam’s 70 percent foreign tax on Made-in-America autos. American auto manufacturers will also benefit from TPP’s intellectual property rules to protect and promote the patents, trade secrets, and trademarks that U.S. auto parts makers have developed, and customs provisions that streamline and simplify customs rules and cut red-tape in getting U.S. auto and auto parts exports to TPP markets.
TPP will also include strong rules of origin for both autos and parts. These rules are designed to both incentivize the sourcing of autos and auto parts in the United States and the TPP region and expand the U.S. auto industry’s potential export opportunities.
Crucially, TPP will also level the playing field for U.S. autos in Japan’s market. TPP addresses the wide range of non-tariff measures in Japan that have limited access for U.S. autos to this important market, including those related to Japan’s standards, financial incentive programs, and certification procedures. TPP also includes a strong dispute resolution mechanism to ensure we have the tools to guarantee Japan complies with its auto-related obligations, with stiff penalties in the event of noncompliance, as well as expedited procedures and special consultation mechanisms to head off new non-tariff measures.
At the same time, TPP allows the United States to keep our auto tariffs on Japanese autos in place until year 25. This is 5 times longer than what we were able to secure in our Free Trade Agreement with Korea. (In NAFTA autos were duty-free immediately). We’ll get to keep our truck tariffs on Japan in place for even longer — until year 30. That’s 3 times longer than NAFTA and Korea. And, unlike NAFTA, our tariff cuts will be back-loaded, meaning the majority of cuts take place years from now towards the end of the phase-out period.
“Will Congress have adequate time to review TPP before voting on it?”
Absolutely. The bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill that Congress passed earlier this year takes unprecedented steps to increase transparency and ensure oversight by Congress. The full text of the agreement is online right now, and will be available for months before the President signs it and even longer before Congress takes a vote on ratifying it.
TPA is the product of decades of evolution toward strengthening the role of Congress in overseeing trade policy.
Under TPA, Congress cedes no authority to the President. Congress retains all of its Constitutional authority and, as provided for in the Constitution, either chamber of Congress can change its procedures at any time — including revoking TPA.
Specifically, this TPA bill:
- Requires detailed and comprehensive public summaries of U.S. negotiating objectives;
- Requires the Administration to make the text of the agreement available to the public online 60 days before the President signs it;
- Specifies that after signature, when implementing legislation is introduced, Congress can take up to 90 legislative days (typically several months) to hold hearings, convene sessions for drafting implementing legislation, and ultimately vote on agreements;
- Specifies that before implementing legislation is introduced on the floor, Congressional Committees issue detailed reports, including on whether negotiating objectives have been met or not;
- Allows Members of Congress to be designated as Congressional Advisers and accredited to attend negotiating rounds;
- Creates House and Senate Advisory Groups on Negotiations to consult and provide advice to ongoing negotiations and requires regularly scheduled meetings with them;
- Creates a Chief Transparency Officer to consult with Congress on transparency policy, coordinate transparency in trade negotiations, and engage and assist the public.
“You’ve talked a lot about the U.S. writing the rules instead of China, but won’t China just be able to join TPP whenever they want anyway?”
No. The Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill makes clear that that no new country can be added to the TPP without demonstrating the capacity and will to live up to the high standards embodied in TPP, followed by Congressional approval.
TPA requires close consultation with Congress on any new TPP members, including a 90 day notification before beginning a negotiation with any new country, and another 90 day notification before an agreement can be signed with any new party.
And, of course, TPA requires a vote by both houses of Congress before a potential new party could join TPP.
Finally, before considering entering into negotiations with any potential new TPP member, we would make an assessment of that country’s ability to meet the high standards of TPP, including on issues such as intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises, and labor and environmental protections.
We will also assess a country’s track record of compliance with past trade agreements, and its willingness to address outstanding bilateral trade issues.
China understands that it is a long way from being able to meet the high standards of TPP.
“Was TPP negotiated in secrecy?”
This Administration has taken unprecedented steps to increase transparency during our trade negotiations. And every word of the TPP agreement is online here on Medium for you to read right now. The text will be public for months before the President signs it and longer still before Congress considers it.
The steps this Administration has taken to increase transparency have resulted in more public dialogue and outreach around TPP than any other free trade agreement in history. We published detailed summaries of U.S. negotiating objectives and issue-specific updates, solicited public comments on negotiating objectives, held public hearings, briefed Congress extensively on TPP and our overall trade agenda, and provided access to review text to Members of Congress and cleared staff, and provided access to review text to our entire Congressionally-mandated trade advisory committee system, including representatives from industry, labor unions, NGOs, and environmental groups.
The bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill that passed in June 2015 put in place additional requirements to ensure that Congress and the public play a meaningful role in our trade negotiations and hold this Administration — and future Administrations — accountable for ensuring that trade policy reflects the best interests of the American people.
Under TPA, TPP must be public for at least 60 days before the president signs it and sends it to Congress. TPA also specifies that after those two months, when implementing legislation is introduced, Congress will take up to 90 legislative days (typically several months) to hold hearings, convene sessions for drafting implementing legislation, and ultimately vote on agreements.
Before implementing legislation heads to the floor, Congressional Committees issue detailed reports, including on whether negotiating objectives have been met.
“Is TPP another NAFTA?”
No. President Obama has been clear that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype. That’s why TPP learns from the mistakes of the past and renegotiates NAFTA, placing fully enforceable labor and environmental standards at the core of the agreement — including for Canada and Mexico.
When NAFTA was negotiated over 20 years ago, labor and environmental provisions weren’t included in NAFTA, but were part of side agreements without recourse to normal NAFTA trade sanctions.
TPP changes that.
TPP includes the strongest labor standards of any trade agreement, including by requiring the protection of freedom to form unions and bargain collectively, prohibitions against and the effective elimination of exploitative child labor and forced labor, protection against employment discrimination, and the adoption of laws on acceptable conditions of work concerning minimum wages, hours of work, and occupational safety and health.
TPP includes the highest-standard environmental commitments of any trade agreement, including prohibitions on some of the most harmful fishery subsidies, new tools to combat wildlife trafficking, improvements in enforcement of conservation laws, and other protections.
And TPP’s labor and environment provisions will be fully enforceable. They are at the core of the agreement, not relegated to a side agreement.
Finally, TPP includes first-ever disciplines to ensure that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) compete on a commercial basis and that the advantages SOEs receive from their governments, such as unfair subsidies, do not have an adverse impact on American workers and businesses.
And because our NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico are also part of TPP, TPP meets the President’s commitment to renegotiate NAFTA, as well as extend these higher, fully-enforceable standards to cover nearly 40 percent of the global economy. That will level the playing field for American workers and businesses, improve the competitiveness of the United States, and position more Americans to win in tomorrow’s global economy.
In addition, Mexico is also developing parallel labor reforms, including to better protect
collective bargaining and reform its system for administering labor justice.
“Do trade agreements increase the U.S. trade deficit?”
No. Trade agreements like TPP allow us to increase American exports. If you take our 20 free trade partners as a group, the U.S. runs a goods and services trade surplus, not a deficit. That includes a trade surplus in manufactured products, in agriculture, and in services.
Many other factors, including global rates of economic growth and patterns of savings and investment, drive our trade balance.
Currently, American workers and businesses are facing an unfair status quo. They face stiff competition here at home and barriers to selling to markets abroad. At the same time, China and other U.S. competitors are busy negotiating trade agreements and gaining preferential access to the fastest-growing markets in the world. Our businesses and workers are being put at a competitive disadvantage, and that can contribute to our trade deficit on the margin.
High-standard trade agreements like TPP are how we shape the rules of globalization in a way that benefits our workers and businesses. Trade deals like TPP help to level the playing field.
Finally, these agreements are making a real difference for American families. According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, American real incomes are nine percent higher than they would otherwise have been as a result of trade liberalizing efforts since the Second World War. In today’s terms, that means roughly $13,000 in the pockets of every American family, every year.