Friday, July 5, 2013

TAFTA delay good for workers

Allegations that the U.S. government spied on several European governments is putting a cramp in efforts to kick off negotiations of the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA). Some EU officials have suggested that talks set to begin next week in Washington be postponed. That's good news for workers.

The French government is calling for a two-week delay in TAFTA discussions, while a German official suggested that citizens with privacy concerns should steer clear of U.S. Internet companies Google and Facebook. Their comments come after former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden accused the American government of intercepting communications with some EU diplomats.

For anyone concerned about the U.S. middle class and consumer safety, the postponement of talks would be a welcome respite. Those involved with TAFTA have done their best to keep discussion of the trade pact under wraps, much like what has been done for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But some details have emerged.

A recent Public Citizen blog, for instance, exposes that U.S. and European corporations want to use TAFTA to water down necessary agriculture, communications, energy production and financial safeguards. That has drawn criticism from consumer, environmental, health, farmer, labor and tech groups in both the EU and here:
The NSA’s overreaching national security agenda has jeopardized their overreaching corporate agenda to use TAFTA to roll back financial, climate and food safety standards that make doing business less convenient.  If the two agendas would cancel each other out, perhaps we could get on with an agenda that’s actually supported by the public – from environmental stability to public health to personal privacy. 
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), meanwhile, announced it obtained a set of EU position papers that summarize some of their initial regulatory goals within the automobile sector, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and competition policy, as well as a proposed chapter on trade and sustainable development. While there are some relevant points, the IATP notes they can't be considered in a vacuum:
Consistent multilateral rules on difficult issues make sense, but let’s make sure trade is put in its place. Rules that provide for a safe workplace, protect public health and the environment, and promote energy and food security have been lost in trade agreements of the past. And the fact is that many advances in standards start at the local level and work their way to the national and, ideally, international levels.
Stay tuned...