USW Urges New Approach and Expanded Agenda for U.S.-EU Trade Talks

Feb 19, 2013, 13:37 ET from United Steelworkers (USW)

WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- "The Administration's trade agenda is quickly expanding. Comprehensive and difficult negotiations are still underway for a Trans-Pacific Partnership and there is now a push to create a U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement. Combined with the recent announcement of negotiations to reach an International Services Agreement, the negotiating plate is overflowing.


"The completion of the U.S.-EU High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth and announcement by the President in his State of the Union speech on the desire to begin the U.S.-EU FTA talks may provide an opportunity to finally approach trade in a way that will promote economic growth and opportunity for more workers here in the U.S. and among the EU's member countries. The similarity in our economic development level and economic systems could help reduce the downward pressure on wages and working conditions. An agreement, properly designed and implemented could be a force for progress. But, that's only if the negotiators take a new approach and abandon the outdated one that underlies existing trade agreements and TPP negotiations to-date.

"The U.S. already has a robust trading relationship with the EU. The trade barriers that the EU maintains have been intractable. Any negotiation must ensure true reciprocity, not just more promises. Enforcement is only a second best option to compliance as enforcement actions only occur after injury has been inflicted. The markets and consumers are there, but access to them will be difficult and not assured. We need results.

"Negotiations with the EU do provide a real opportunity to ensure that workers on both sides of the Atlantic could finally benefit from a free trade agreement if their interests are properly addressed.  There is more than $8 trillion in investments among all of the potential parties to the agreement.  This huge cross-border investment directly links workers in the U.S. and in EU countries through an intricate web of common employers. The USW already works closely with industrial trade unions in Europe through Workers Uniting, our partnership with Unite the Union in the UK and Ireland, and the IndustriALL Global Union. 

"How an agreement addresses the rights of workers vis-a-vis their employers as well as regulations and standards for workers at their workplace must be of paramount importance as this negotiation goes forward. No longer can the fundamental interests of workers be shunted aside.  If our goal is to harmonize upwards and adopt best practice for commercial interests, we can do no less for the people that an agreement is said to benefit.

"At a minimum any agreement should expand on existing EU mechanisms that provide for information disclosure and consultation between workers and trans-national enterprises, strengthen regulations concerning workplace health and safety, adopt the strongest protections on the testing and control of toxic chemicals and include best practice regulations concerning contingent workers among other crucial issues. The failures of an unrestrained market and poorly regulated enterprises are evident in the global recession that is still enveloping much of the world today. A U.S.-EU agreement that puts the interests of workers at its center provides the best opportunity to promote equitable, sustainable growth. We can, and must, do better.

"An agreement, done right could help sustain and expand the middle class and provide economic opportunity for hundreds of millions of people. But, an agreement utilizing the current model is a recipe for disaster."

The USW represents 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. It is the largest private sector union in North America, representing workers in a wide range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, plus office, technical and service workers in health care, security, hotels and municipal governments and agencies.

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)