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Trade Agreement must be based on environmental and social aims

By Ellen Teague

Catholic organisations are amongst those who have signed a letter to the UK Secretary of State for International Trade and the US Trade Representative urging that the proposed new Trade agreement between the UK and US must be based upon ambitious environmental and social aims.

The letter, sent to the UK Secretary of State for International Trade and president of the Board of Trade Elizabeth Truss and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, was signed by 69 UK and US organisations. Among them were the US-based Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach and Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. As formal negotiations begin for a trade agreement between the UK and US, the groups have laid benchmarks for it to be transparent with environmental and social safeguards.

Text of letter and signatories follow:

May 4, 2020
Dear Ms. Truss and Mr. Lighthizer:

Formal negotiations are beginning for a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. As groups from both the US and the UK, including environmental, animal welfare, health, food, farming, labour, digital, development, faith and social justice organisations, we are concerned about the risks that a deal could pose to the wellbeing of people and planet.

Any trade agreement must be based upon ambitious environmental and social aims, and must:

• Include binding climate requirements, including that the signatories adopt, maintain
and implement policies to fulfil the Paris Climate Agreement, that ensure the
provisions of the deal contribute to, and do not undermine, domestic policies to
tackle the climate crisis, and exclude support for fossil fuels and corporate polluters

• Protect the public and the environment by requiring any imported goods and
services and their providers to minimally meet the health, safety, environmental,
animal welfare, food standards, production standards, land use and zoning,
licensing, professional qualification, privacy, transparency and consumer access
policies where the goods or services will be consumed

• Exclude terms that undermine strong, publicly provided public services, including
universal access to health services, or price controls for medicines and those that
strengthen pharmaceutical monopolies, such as intellectual property rights.

• Include binding labour rights subject to swift and certain enforcement, requiring
each country to adopt, maintain, implement and enforce domestic laws that provide
the labour rights and protections included in the International Labour Organisation’s
Core Conventions and Protocols

• Include provisions to protect existing labour standards, wages and working
conditions, and prevent a global race to the bottom by barring movement of
production to evade labour laws and by establishing formal protections for joint
activities, including collective bargaining, by workers in both countries with the
same employer

• Exclude terms that undermine the right of governments to set farm policy and
support their farmers

• Exclude terms that undermine effective financial and corporate regulation, including
human rights due diligence throughout supply chains

• Exclude terms that undermine the Sustainable Development Goals and
commitments in international law

• Exclude terms that undermine the regulation of digital technology and protect digital
rights including privacy

• Exclude any form of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and rules that help
corporations challenge proposed public interest regulations

• Exclude terms constraining domestic procurement policies with respect to local
preferences or labour, environmental, human rights, animal welfare and other
requirements on goods, services and bidders

• Include a safeguard excluding non-discriminatory domestic health, labour and other
public interest policies from challenge as violating the agreement

Lastly, to ensure that trade talks follow this positive agenda, it is essential that they are carried out transparently with democratic scrutiny, meaning opening texts and draft texts following each negotiating round must be made publicly available and the process includes ongoing opportunities for public consultation, and be subject to democratic consent.

Signed,

U.S. Organizations:

1. Citizens Trade Campaign
2. A Well-Fed World
3. All-Creatures.org
4. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
5. Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers
6. Backbone Campaign
7. Campaign for America’s Future
8. Citizens Trade Campaign
9. CODEPINK
10. Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
11. Communications Workers of America (CWA)
12. Communities and Postal Workers United
13. Community Services Unlimited
14. CPATH (Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health)
15. Fair World Project
16. Family Farm Defenders
17. Food & Water Action
18. Friends of the Earth U.S.
19. Global Exchange
20. GMO Free USA
21. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
22. Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project
23. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
24. Jobs with Justice
25. Labor Network for Sustainability
26. Living Economies Forum
27. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
28. National Family Farm Coalition
29. National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Assn
30. National LGBTQ Task Force
31. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
32. Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
33. Pesticide Action Network North America
34. Popular Resistance
35. Pride at Work
36. Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
37. Rachel Carson Council
38. Real Food Challenge
39. RootsAction.org
40. Seeding Sovereignty
41. Sierra Club
42. Social Security Works
43. The Oakland Institute
44. United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
(UAW)
45. United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
46. United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE)
47. United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial
and Service Workers Union (USW)
48. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines

UK Organisations:

49. Trade Justice Movement
50. CHEM Trust
51. Compassion in World Farming
52. Equality Trust
53. Friends of the Earth
54. Global Justice Now
55. Just Treatment
56. Keep Our NHS Public
57. NASUWT
58. Pesticide Action Network UK
59. RSPB
60. RSPCA
61. Soil Association
62. STOPAIDS
63. SumOfUs
64. Sustain
65. Traidcraft Exchange
66. UNISON
67. Unlock Democracy
68. War on Want
69. We Own It

Picture: National flags are seen on sale. (Jaap Arriens/SIPA USA/PA).

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OTHER NEWS

Burundi’s bishops say election was marred by irregularities

Bishops in Burundi criticised the nation's presidential election substandard, saying it was marred by widespread irregularities and general lack of freedom to choose. "We deplore many irregularities with regard to the freedom and transparency in the electoral process...

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