403 US Labor and Civil Society Groups speak out on Indo-Pacific Trade Deal

Monday March 6, 2023: Over 400 US labor and civil society organisations have written to President Biden outlining their priorities for the pending Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) trade agreement. The letter comes shortly before the Office of the US Trade Representative is expected to introduce US proposals for IPEF’s labor, environment and digital trade chapters during a key negotiating round being held in Bali, Indonesia, on March 13-19.

“A wide range of organizations across the United States are ready to fight for an Indo-Pacific trade deal that furthers the President’s vision of creating a new model for trade and international cooperation that prioritizes working people, combats global climate change and reins in Big Tech abuses,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which organized the letter. “Whatever labor, environmental and digital positions the US ultimately introduces will play a big role in determining whether IPEF is helpful in advancing these goals."

The 403 organisational signers on the letter include: Amazon Labor Union Amnesty International USA, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, BlueGreen Alliance, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Greenpeace USA, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Family Farm Coalition, National Organization for Women, Public Citizen, Presbyterian Church USA, Rethink Trade, Sierra Club, Trade Justice Education Fund,  United Steelworkers (USW) and many others.

These organisations expressed interest in working with the administration "so that any final deal corrects the errors of past trade pacts and becomes a useful model for future agreements that deliver real benefits to people and the planet." They offered the following joint recommendations:

On Labor: "To advance your administration’s promised worker-centred trade model, IPEF must include strong labor rights commitments based on standards set in the International Labor Organization’s core conventions.”

On the Environment: "Given that previous US trade agreements, including the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), fail to even mention the term 'climate change,' IPEF will need to be particularly ambitious in its climate provisions if it is to help the United States and Indo-Pacific region achieve their climate and environmental justice goals. Among other environmental measures, IPEF must require that countries adopt, implement and maintain binding climate standards, and must likewise extend swift-and-certain enforcement mechanisms to those provisions."

On ‘Digital Trade’: "On the matter of 'digital trade’, IPEF’s terms must not be allowed to undermine the administration’s domestic anti-monopoly and tech regulation agenda by locking in international rules that threaten consumer privacy, data security, worker rights, civil rights, algorithm justice and competition policy here and throughout the Indo-Pacific.

The letter also addresses IPEF's potential Good Regulatory Practice and Agricultural provisions. Regarding IPEF’s negotiating process, it called on the administration to withdraw confidentiality agreements between negotiating parties and take other specific steps to improve transparency and public participation.

A copy of the letter and complete list of signers is available online here.