In a speech Friday, President Barack Obama appealed to unions which have been adamantly opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“So when you look at a country like Vietnam, under this agreement, Vietnam would actually, for the first time, have to raise its labor standards,” the president declared in front of a crowd at a Nike plant in Oregon. “It would have to set a minimum wage. It would have to pass safe workplace laws to protect its workers.”
Despite agreeing on many policy areas, unions and the White House have been unable to find common ground on TPP. Currently being negotiated between 12 countries, including the United States, Japan and Australia, the trade deal looks likely to have a major impact on international policy.
“It would even have to protect workers’ freedom to form unions — for the very first time,” the president continued. “That would make a difference. That helps to level the playing field.”
“And if Vietnam, or any of the other countries in this trade agreement don’t meet these requirements, they’ll face meaningful consequences,” the president said. “If you’re a country that wants in to this agreement, you have to meet higher standards. If you don’t, you’re out.”
Labor unions have done all they can to oppose the deal from rallies at the U.S. Capitol to threats of freezing political contributions to lawmakers that support it. Like many others on the left, unions have noted concern that the trade deal is going to benefit corporate interests at the expense of working Americans.
“They say that this trade agreement will cost American jobs,” the president noted. “What this trade agreement would do is open the doors to the higher-skill, higher-wage jobs of the future — jobs that we excel at. It would make sure our manufacturers who are operating at the higher end of the value chain are able to access these growing markets.”
Unions argue the deal must include protections so American workers don’t lose their jobs to foreign competitors while also protecting workers in other countries. With his latest speech, the president looks to be promising just that.