US-Singapore FTA hurts workers: AFL-CIO

Below is the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President John Sweeney’s statement on Free Trade Agreements hurting workers’ rights in the US, Chile and Singapore.
28 February 2003

Despite criticism for withholding completed trade agreements from the public, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced this week that the texts of recently negotiated free trade agreements with Chile and Singapore will be kept secret until March or later.

While the administration keeps the public in the dark, an official government advisory committee on trade policy, the Labor Advisory Committee on Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy (LAC), released a detailed report today that sheds light on fundamental flaws in both agreements as failing to serve the economic interests of the United States and dealing a blow to workers in the U.S., Chile and Singapore.

Today the labor movement calls on the USTR to stop stalling and allow working families to see firsthand and immediately how the USTR proposes to change the future of American jobs.

The Chile and Singapore agreements were the first trade agreements negotiated by the Bush administration under Fast Track authority. They are the blueprint to a global economy without workers’ rights, job and wage security and balanced international trade. The agreements are weaker than existing trade policies in protecting workers’ rights and contain provisions on investment, services, government procurement, intellectual property rights and immigration policies that will undermine the ability of governments to regulate public health, the environment and domestic labor markets.

As required by the Trade Act of 2002, the LAC report evaluates the impact of the Chile and Singapore agreements on the U.S. economy and workers. George Becker, the chairman of LAC and former president of the United Steelworkers, charged in his report that, “these agreements [with Chile and Singapore] repeat the same mistakes of the North American Free Trade Agreement and are likely to lead to the same deteriorating trade balances, lost jobs, trampled rights and inadequate economic development that NAFTA has created.”

The growing and now historically high U.S. trade deficit proves that “free” trade has failed to open up new markets for American goods. The overall track record of NAFTA and other “free trade” agreements demonstrates that they also have failed to benefit working people both here and abroad. The only winners in today’s unbalanced global economy are the multinational corporations that rack up big profits as they move production from country to country, pit workers and governments against each other, bargain down wages and chip away at the ability of national governments to regulate in their nations best interest.

Congress may vote on implementing legislation for the Chile and Singapore agreements later this year under Fast Track procedures, after the president signs the agreements and submits them to the Congress. The American labor movement strongly urges Congress to reject the Chile and Singapore agreements.

Contact: Kathy Roeder (202) 637-5018