US tells TPP members to improve labour standards

National 2 minutes, 28 seconds


THE United States yesterday warned Brunei and other Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) members of failing to implement improved labour and environmental standards as this will lead to restrictions in receiving full benefits of the free trade deal.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said countries have to meet the baseline for labour rights and environmental protection to access lifted tariffs and open markets.

“There’s a powerful incentive to countries in the TPP to meet those standards, because if they don’t, they won’t receive all benefits… That is what’s in it for everybody in the TPP that meet their end of the deal,” he told reporters in Sunnylands, Rancho Mirage.

Under the labour chapter of the trade agreement, Brunei must undertake reforms to protect labour rights which include introducing a minimum wage.

The US negotiated a separate side deal with Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, requiring the three governments to implement specific legislative and regulatory reforms as well as increase enforcement capacity as outlined in their respective consistency plans.

TPP members must also allow mechanisms for the creation of a workers’ union, procedures for collective bargaining and strikes as well as prohibit discrimination.

While the sultanate has yet to enact minimum wage laws, the government enables workers to anonymously report violations of labour laws that include follow-up and documentation procedures, another condition laid out in Brunei’s consistency plan.

Last week, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Dato Paduka Hj Erywan Pehin Dato Pekerma Jaya Hj Mohd Yusof had said Brunei will revise several pieces of legislation, including minimum wage, labour and transparency laws before the sultanate ratifies the TPP.

Rhodes believed the TPP empowers members across the Asia Pacific region to not only improve and enhance trade relations, but also uphold labour and environmental standards.

“Over time, we think that can improve the standards in those countries and the region as whole, because there will be a benefit that comes to countries who are elevating their standards and improving their performances in these areas,” he said.

The core international standards on labour rights, which all TPP members must demonstrate, are in line with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) regulations.

At the plenary session of the Special US-ASEAN Leaders Summit, US President Barack Obama reiterated that Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have committed to high labour and environmental standards in joining the TPP.

He previously said the TPP will help countries deal with issues involving forced labour, child labour and discrimination against women, by using internationally recognised labour laws.

“We know from our own history that when workers are able to come together and speak with one voice, it helps to boost wages which improves working conditions and raises living standards. This progress ripples out and benefits all workers,” he said last November.

As one of the hallmarks of the TPP, Obama said hundreds of millions of workers will now be covered by higher, enforceable labour standards.

The Brunei Times