Tell Rep. Lofgren to Oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Your Representative Is Asking for Comments from Constituents Right Now
U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren is one of the few House Democrats who has not yet publicly opposed the TPP. She is requesting comments from her constituents right now to help guide her decision.
This is an opportunity to have your voice heard. And we need you to use it.
- Step 1: Go to the survey on Rep. Lofgren’s website.
- Step 2: Scroll down to the purple survey.
- Step 3: Copy the suggested answers that are on this page and paste them into Rep. Lofgren’s survey. Or share your thoughts in your own words.
- Step 4: Add your name at the bottom of this page to let us know you completed Rep. Lofgren’s survey.
Questions and Sample Answers:
QUESTION 1: “Are the human rights reforms Vietnam is required to make in this deal significant enough?”
- SUGGESTED ANSWER: No.
- The TPP’s labor chapter is largely modeled after the labor chapter found in George W. Bush-era trade agreements. The standards it sets are not the clear, unambiguous and easy-to-enforce standards that labor and human rights advocates have been asking for. Rather, they are left intentionally vague, and triggering enforcement action against a TPP labor violation is considerably more difficult than triggering a complaint against commercial violations.
- The TPP’s much-touted new minimum wage and hours of work requirements simply require TPP countries to have such laws — they don’t specify what the laws must say. A country could decide, for instance, to establish a minimum wage of a dollar a day and maximum hours of work at 24 hours a day and still be in full legal compliance.
- Outside of these insufficient labor rights provisions, there are no other human rights requirements whatsoever. We should not be entering intro privileged trade arrangements with governments that consistently violate their people's basic freedoms of speech, assembly and religion.
QUESTION 2: “Do you think the enforcement measures in this agreement are enough to hold the communist government of Vietnam to its commitments to change labor laws and keep these changes in place? Or will it be possible for Vietnam go back to its old ways after getting the trade benefits?”
- SUGGESTED ANSWER: No, Vietnam will go back to its old ways after getting trade benefits.
- Human rights in Vietnam have not improved since Vietnam entered the TPP negotiations. According to Human Rights Watch, “Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire in all areas. The Communist Party maintains a monopoly on political power and allows no challenge to its leadership. Basic rights, including freedom of speech, opinion, press, association, and religion, are restricted. Rights activists and bloggers face harassment, intimidation, physical assault, and imprisonment. Farmers continue to lose land to development projects without adequate compensation, and workers are not allowed to form independent unions. The police use torture and beatings to extract confessions. The criminal justice system lacks independence.”
- The United States should have required demonstrable improvements in human rights before allowing Vietnam to enter the TPP. Relying on vague, slow, difficult-to-enforce and wholly insufficient enforcement mechanisms on labor rights years after the commercial benefits of the agreement go into effect is a recipe for failure.
QUESTION 3: “Given that it’s up to the United States to enforce the labor commitments in the side agreement with Vietnam, do you think future U.S. Administrations will enforce Vietnam’s worker rights obligations or forego enforcing them to protect U.S. businesses that benefit from the deal? Are the enforcement provisions sufficient and timely enough to protect human rights?”
- SUGGESTED ANSWER: No, I don’t trust all future U.S. presidents to enforce provisions that hold Vietnam accountable.
- The United States does not have a strong track record of even attempting to enforce the labor provisions of existing trade agreements. For instance, the United States allowed the Colombia Free Trade Agreement to go into effect even though Colombia was in clear violation of the Colombia Labor Action Plan from day one, and workers there continue to be subjected to threats and violence, including kidnapping and assassination, simply for attempting to exercise their basic rights.
- If approved by Congress, future U.S. administrations would be under tremendous pressure from commercial interests to allow the TPP to take effect, even if Vietnam hasn’t lived up to its labor rights obligations. Given the Vietnamese government’s ongoing human rights abuses, it seems extremely unlikely it will find newfound respect for labor rights any time soon.
QUESTION 4: “Please include below any other thoughts or suggestions you have:”
- SUGGESTED ANSWER: There are no provisions in the TPP sufficient to protect human rights in Vietnam. For this, and many other reasons, I urge you to please publicly oppose the TPP today.