UNIONS in the United States warned yesterday that the proposed new Pacific free trade pact would endanger jobs, wages and safety at work.
Just over two decades after lobbying unsuccessfully against the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the unions are again strongly sceptical of measures encouraging trade liberalisation.
At issue is the TransPacific Partnership, which is expected to call for the reduction or elimination of trade barriers between the US and 11 Pacific rim nations.
Union leaders and others warned that the proposed pact would allow US companies to funnel manufacturing jobs to lower-wage countries.
Environmental and human rights groups have also put up strong opposition.
Even some Democratic Party critics have depicted the Pacific free-trade deal and its US-European Union companion the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as “Nafta on steroids.”
Opinions on the negotiations have divided along traditional lines.
“A world where goods and services trade freely is a more fascinating — and prosperous — place to live,” claimed logistics firm UPS boss David Abney.
But American Federation of Labour-Congress of Industrial Organisations president Richard Trumka called the proposed agreements deeply flawed.
“We cannot enact new trade agreements modelled on Nafta,” he said.
Lorry drivers’ union the International Brotherhood of Teamsters president James Hoffa warned of job losses.
Unlike the proposed deal, trade pacts involving the US should “contribute to democratic global economic governance and to promote good jobs, full employment and rising wages,” Mr Hoffa said.
“A key element, of course, is strong labour rights protection so every worker in every country can exercise fundamental human rights on the job without fear.”