Trade Deals Can Boost Labor, Environment Protections, USTR Says



Published on 19 February 2014

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by Kathryn McConnell

(WireNews+Co)

Washington, D.C.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman

Two major trade deals the United States is negotiating could lead to greater protections for labor, the environment and intellectual property rights worldwide, according to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Froman told a meeting February 18 at the Center for American Progress that globalization and technological change, especially since the start of the Obama administration, have accelerated and are not slowing down. “Our trade agreements need to take on that challenge,” he said. The Center for American Progress is a Washington think tank.

LABOR

Froman said the new trade agreements would level the playing field for partners by raising labor and environmental standards, by reducing barriers, and by “putting disciplines on state-owned enterprises.” He added that trade can be an important tool in efforts to address income inequality. “The heart of the global economy should be working people who stand to share in the benefits of global growth,” he said.

Froman noted that in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the United States seeks to include sections requiring adherence to “fundamental labor rights,” including the right to organize and collectively bargain, and protections from child and forced labor and from employment discrimination. “We see TPP as the mechanism most likely to incentivize these countries [of the Pacific Rim] to make progress in reforming their labor systems and upholding workers’ rights,” he said.

The trade representative also said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would lay a foundation for cooperation with Europe to promote “high-standard labor practices around the world.”

ENVIRONMENT

“Our values also tell us that the future global economy should be more sustainable than it is today,” Froman said, noting that the United States is working to “set the world’s highest standards” in the environmental sections of trade agreements that put environmental protection on “equal footing with commercial obligations.”

He added that protections for endangered species “must be taken as seriously” as commitments to lower tariffs and to protect intellectual property. He said the United States is asking its trading partners to effectively enforce environmental laws, including those implementing multilateral environmental agreements.

He said the United States encourages partners to take a more sustainable approach to development that “levels the playing field for … companies who maintain high standards for their workers and the communities where they operate.”

He said that through TPP, the United States seeks to address conservation challenges that are “particularly prevalent” in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in areas in the region that have served as conduits for illegal trade and for smuggling of threatened animal, timber, plant and marine species.

He called TPP “a unique opportunity” to improve regional cooperation and enforcement of the rules of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

“Whether protecting big-leaf mahogany or tigers, sharks and chinchillas, stronger legal frameworks, more cooperation and better enforcement will improve the chances that these species survive,” he said.

Froman added that TPP and TTIP are good opportunities to make progress on the deadlocked issue of fishing subsidies.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Froman also said that as “the world’s oldest democracy and innovative economy,” the United States believes that “inventors should be able to patent their inventions and creators should be able to copyright their works.”

He said that while the United States holds its partners accountable to their intellectual property rights commitments and seeks to combat trade-secret theft, it wants to broaden the benefits of innovation to the public and enable cross-border collaboration and data exchange. Those, he said, will drive future innovations.

Froman said the United States wants its TPP partners to accept World Trade Organization provisions allowing for the export of generic versions of patented drugs to countries with insufficient capacity to manufacture their own.

He added that for the first time in a trade agreement, the United States is asking its trading partners to secure a balance in their copyright systems, including fair use for purposes like “scholarship, criticism, news commentary, teaching and research.”

He said balance also would ensure that safe harbors for Internet service providers are available so legitimate providers of cloud computing, user-generated content sites and other Internet-related services that act responsibly can stay online.

“Cross-border information flows are important to spurring innovation, incorporating small and medium-sized businesses into the global economy, and laying the foundation for the next generation of economic drivers,” he said.




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Posted 2014-02-19 20:36:00