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A Note on Stakeholder Consultation

02/08/2014 - 2:00pm

As the Obama Administration negotiates new trade agreements, we work in close consultation with Members of Congress, advisors, stakeholders, and the public at large.  Input from these groups is essential for informing and advising U.S. negotiators as they pursue agreements that will open markets and raise global standards on issues like labor rights and environmental protection.  With input from stakeholders, U.S. negotiators are pursuing trade agreements with the goal of increasing U.S. exports and, in doing so, creating opportunities for new jobs and higher wages for American workers that support widely shared prosperity.

As part of that consultation process, USTR works with a series of advisory committees that were established by Congress to provide forums where stakeholders can provide their views.  These include:

Tier I                President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy Negotiations (ACTPN)

Tier II              Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee (APAC)

Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC)

Labor Advisory Committee (LAC)

Trade Advisory Committee on Africa (TACA)

Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee (TEPAC)

Tier III             Agricultural Technical Advisory Committees (ATACs)

Industry Trade Advisory Committees (ITACs)

Among the advisory committee members are industry representatives, labor unions, environmental groups, consumer groups, health groups, state and local government, and academia.  These committees are provided and have an opportunity to comment on all draft U.S. proposals before they are shared with other countries.  That information is provided equally to all members of the committees, industry and non-industry alike.  All advisors have access to the same information.    

Stakeholder engagement ensures that differing viewpoints are heard during trade negotiations.  In addition to meetings of our advisory committees, we also encourage stakeholders, on and off these advisory panels, to provide input at any time and on any issue.  No individual stakeholder has an assurance that their viewpoint will dominate others or prevail in the negotiations.  But all stakeholders are heard as we seek to craft the strongest agreements.  We do so with the overall interests of the U.S. economy and American workers across the board in mind.  Ultimately, the judgment of whether the national interest is served is made by Congress, which votes on whether to implement any agreement we negotiate.

LABOR CONSULTATIONS AND IMPACT

We have recently been asked about what impact the labor community has had on trade policy.  The labor community has had a demonstrable and significant impact on individual trade agreements and the evolution on American trade policy as a whole over the last two decades.  The Obama Administration has included the leaders of four major labor unions on the Administration’s highest-level advisory committee, the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy Negotiations:

  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • United Auto Workers
  • United Food and Commercial Workers
  • United Steel Workers

 The Labor Advisory Committee (LAC) includes the presidents of the following unions:

  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (current and emeritus presidents)
  • Airline Pilots Association
  • American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
  • Chicago Federation of Labor
  • Farm Labor Organizing Committee
  • International Air Line Pilots Associations
  • International Association of Flight Attendants
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (Chair)
  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
  • International Brotherhood of Teamsters
  • International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers
  • International Union of Electronic, Salaried, Machine, and Furniture Workers
  • Service Employees International Union
  • Transportation and Trades Department (AFL-CIO)
  • Union Label & Service Trades Department (AFL-CIO)
  • United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
  • United Farm Workers of America
  • United Food and Commercial Workers
  • United Mineworkers of America
  • United Steelworkers

Engagement with the Labor Advisory Committee is not limited to regular meetings of union presidents.  It also includes meetings with representatives for the Labor Advisory Committee members.  Seven such meetings were held in 2013.

Additionally, the Labor Advisory Committee chair is included in monthly conference calls where USTR negotiators provide updates on the status of trade negotiations to the leadership of all our trade advisory committees.

We continually seek to broaden the membership of our advisory committees so that they best represent the broadest range of views and we accept new applications for membership on a regular basis.

Since the early 1990s, the labor community has advocated for enforceable labor and environmental obligations in our trade agreements subject to the same dispute settlement mechanisms as commercial obligations.  Under the bipartisan “May 10 Agreement,” negotiated by Democratic members of the House of Representatives, American trade policy took an important step forward: requiring trade partners to strengthen labor rights and implement key environmental protections as part of U.S. trade agreements.  Building on this important agreement, the Obama Administration has embraced the “May 10” approach and is insisting on enforceable labor and environmental protections in our ongoing negotiations, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  We have made this bedrock principle clear, publicly and privately.

A world with TPP is a world in which labor standards are higher, environmental protections are stronger, and American workers compete on a more level playing field.  A world without TPP is a world in which we do not make these advances. 

The labor community has helped shape TPP provisions including freedom of association and collective bargaining, protections from forced and child labor, employment discrimination, and minimum wages.  In addition to working with the labor community to shape labor-related provisions of TPP, the Obama Administration has held extensive discussions on all aspects of the agreement.  For example, at the urging of stakeholders in the labor community and other sectors, USTR is leading the charge to address unfair competition from state-owned enterprises, to structure rules of origin to promote more manufacturing in the United States, and to influence policy on many other areas (e.g., customs, export licensing, government procurement, supply chains).

The labor community’s impact on trade is not limited to negotiations.  On issues ranging from trade remedies to trade enforcement, labor voices have been heard.  

Those voices will continue to be heard.  In just the past few months Ambassador Froman has met individually or had telephone consultations with the heads of several major unions including:

  • American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • United Auto Workers
  • United Food and Commercial Workers
  • United Steelworkers

On December 16, Ambassador Froman and Secretary of Labor Perez convened the Labor Advisory Committee to which all members were invited.  It was attended by the Director of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling and the interagency trade team, as well as the heads of the following unions:

  • International Airline Pilots Association
  • International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • International Federal of Professional and Technical Engineers
  • United Steelworkers
  • United Food and Commercial Workers

Our stakeholders – private sector and non-private sector alike – play a valuable role in shaping U.S. trade policy.  We will continue to work with them on an approach to trade that fosters economic growth, supports jobs here at home, and strengthens America’s middle class.