Trumka expresses concerns about Asia-Pacific trade deal

A top labor union leader expressed concerns Tuesday about the negative effects of completing a massive Asia-Pacific trade deal.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said he is troubled to hear that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks are nearing completion following four days of discussions among top officials of the 12 nations in Singapore.

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The high-level Singapore ministerial ended Tuesday with no deadline to complete a final deal or any announcement for the next round of discussions.

“As the administration moves quickly to finalize the still-secret text of the TPP agreement, we are deeply concerned that in key areas this agreement is on track to mirror problematic or inadequate provisions in previous trade deals,” Trumka said in a statement.

He noted that the deal is not likely to include enforceable provisions on currency manipulation.

A majority in the House and the Senate, as well as business groups and labor unions, have said that the TPP must include a framework to determine and punish nations for manipulating their exchange rates.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanWhite House developing legislative strategy to pass Pacific trade deal Overnight Finance: Path clears for Puerto Rico bill | GOP senator casts doubt on IRS impeachment | Senate approves .1B for Zika Footwear executives pound pavement for Obama trade deal MORE has said he takes the issue very seriously, especially considering that it is included in the first version of trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation introduced in January.

Considering how far along the negotiations are on the ambitious trade pact, Trumka argued that it may be too late to push for so-called fast-track authority.

"Given how far along the TPP negotiations are, fast-track seems increasingly irrelevant," he said.

He said the AFL-CIO has proposed that the Obama administration use the TPP negotiations to "strengthen, streamline, and clarify the labor and environmental provisions negotiated by Congress during the so-called May 10 agreement during the Bush administration."

"We have seen little indication from published reports and leaked text that this is a likely outcome," Trumka said.

"In fact, given the difficulty of completing these negotiations, there is a significant risk that both the labor and environmental provisions, as well as their enforcement mechanisms, could be weakened in the final language."

While Froman said progress was made on a broad range of issues from state-owned enterprises, market access and telecommunications, Trumka argued that it simply isn't enough.  

"America’s workers don’t oppose trade but we are entitled to know that the rules of the TPP aren’t rigged against workers, communities, family farms and small businesses," he said.

"Unfortunately, as the TPP marches toward conclusion with minimal public scrutiny, it looks less and less likely that it’s going to be a fair deal for workers."