As the clock is ticking for Congress to take up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), National Farmers Union is urging lawmakers to oppose a lame duck vote on the multinational trade agreement. The farm organization, representing nearly 200,000 family farmers and ranchers, cited a recent report by the US Department of Labor (DOL) as further evidence of the trade agreement’s inability to reign in unfair foreign practices that place American producers at a competitive disadvantage.
“Promoting trade for American agricultural products should not come at the expense of our farmers, ranchers and workers. We need to rethink a trade deal that does not appropriately address unfair and unnerving practices, like child or forced labour, that ultimately impede US producers’ ability to compete at home and abroad,” said NFU President Roger Johnson.
According to the DOL’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, 27 new line items have been added to the list for a global total of 379 line items. The report defines a line item as a unique combination of a country and a good. For example, Vietnamese-grown sugarcane, which was a new addition to the list for use of child labour.
“Child labourers and victims of forced labour typically work in conditions that fall outside the internationally- recognized ‘acceptable conditions of work’ to produce goods for foreign export and domestic markets. These exploited labourers work in extremely hazardous working conditions, and many are not appropriately compensated for work during regular hours and overtime. For example, farmers in Uzbekistan rarely receive full payment for harvesting silk cocoons,” the report states.
Nearly half of the 139 total goods produced by the 75 countries on the list were agricultural products, the largest production sector for child or forced labour.
“The US has free trade agreements with 10 of the 75 countries on the child and forced labour list, and all of these agreements have failed to address harmful labour issues that create an inequitable market for our producers. I urge Congress to stop this 20-year cycle of failed trade agreements and oppose the TPP as it’s written. This trade deal is not the right deal for America’s farm and ranch families,” Johnson concluded.