Trade unions are demanding that free trade agreements should benefit all and that unions are consulted in the negotiations. The action is timed to coincide with the L20 or Labour 20 – a meeting of trade union leaders from the G20 nations, that is taking place in Tokyo, Japan on 29 and 30 August.
The new generation of comprehensive free trade agreements, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which demands deeper liberalization in the Asia-Pacific region, go beyond mere tariff reductions, affecting almost every aspect of a nation’s economy. They have serious implications for governments’ ability to use policy tools according to their developmental needs, and in many ways, represent a corporate trade agenda that can negatively affect workers’ rights.
The RCEP negotiations, which involve 16 countries and half of the world’s population, are at an advanced stage and due to be concluded by the end of the year.
Actions of IndustriALL’s affiliates in the Asia-Pacific region are guided by the ten guiding principles for trade union intervention in policy forums and processes, which was adopted by the IndustriALL Executive Committee.
- Governments must return to multilateralism, instead of pursuing bilateral or regional trade agreements
- Trade agreements must include enforceable labour rights and reference ILO conventions
- Trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive
- Governments must retain control and be able to set industrial policy
- Say no to Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions, which allow companies to sue countries if they pass laws that restrict their profits
- Governments must be able to regulate the digital economy and play a role in policy-making for digital infrastructure
- Intellectual property rights must not hinder governments’ efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Limitations on medicines must be removed from trade agreements
- Countries must able to use rule-based trade remedies to defend local industries against unfair trade
- Public procurement must remain as a government industrial policy tool
- Public services must be excluded from legally-binding commitments under trade agreements
IndustriALL affiliates will hold rallies, demonstrations and workshops to highlight their demands on 30 August.
The L20, which is convened by the International Trade Union Confederation and the OECD, is taking place ahead of the G20 Labour and Employment Ministers Meeting in Matsuyama, Japan on 1 and 2 September.
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