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Democratic Lawmakers Call for Implementation of Bi-lateral Labour Commitments Before TPP Enters into Force

A group of 19 Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, are calling on the Obama administration to withhold the submission of legislation to implement the recently-signed Trans-Pacific Partnership unless and until Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei (i) implement the legal reforms stipulated in the bi-lateral consistency plans they signed with the United States as part of the TPP negotiations and (ii) demonstrate a consistent track record of enforcing these new laws. The lawmakers are particularly concerned about “the current poor condition of labour standards in these countries, the uncertainty surrounding the capacity and willingness of these governments to implement the required reforms, and questions about how the Administration will assess these countries’ achievement of their commitments.”

The letter also voices “serious concerns” as to whether Malaysia merited an upgrade from Tier 3 to Tier 2 in the U.S. State Department’s most recent report on trafficking in persons, noting that the Malaysian government was unable to successfully implement a pilot programme cited in that report that would have allowed four trafficking victims in Malaysia to work outside government facilities.

The bi-lateral labour consistency plans clearly state that they are to enter into force on the date of entry into force of the TPP. The plans include a range of provisions on such matters as labour unions, scope of strikes, forced labour, child labour, discrimination, institutional reforms and capacity building, industrial relations, labour inspection capacity, and transparency and sharing of information. In the case of Vietnam, the plan will require Vietnamese authorities to ensure that domestic laws and regulations permit workers employed by an enterprise to form a grassroots labour union. Registered unions would have the right to autonomously elect their representatives, adopt their constitution and rules, and organise and lead strikes and other collective actions related to the occupational and socio-economic interests of the workers at the union’s enterprise.

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