by Guest Contributor
Catholic organisations are amongst those who have signed a letter to the UK Secretary of State for International Trade and the US Trade Representative urging that the proposed new Trade agreement between the UK and US must be based upon ambitious environmental and social aims.  The letter, sent on 4 May to Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP in London and The Honourable Robert Lighthizer in Washington, was signed by 69 UK and US organisations.  Among them were the US-based Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach and Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns. As formal negotiations begin for a trade agreement between the UK and US, the groups have laid benchmarks for it to be transparent with environmental and social safeguards. May 4, 2020 Dear Ms. Truss and Mr. Lighthizer: Formal negotiations are beginning for a trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. As groups from both the US and the UK, including environmental, animal welfare, health, food, farming, labour, digital, development, faith and social justice organisations, we are concerned about the risks that a deal could pose to the wellbeing of people and planet. Any trade agreement must be based upon ambitious environmental and social aims, and must:
  • Include binding climate requirements, including that the signatories adopt, maintain and implement policies to fulfil the Paris Climate Agreement, that ensure the provisions of the deal contribute to, and do not undermine, domestic policies to tackle the climate crisis, and exclude support for fossil fuels and corporate polluters
  • Protect the public and the environment by requiring any imported goods and services and their providers to minimally meet the health, safety, environmental, animal welfare, food standards, production standards, land use and zoning, licensing, professional qualification, privacy, transparency and consumer access policies where the goods or services will be consumed
  • Exclude terms that undermine strong, publicly provided public services, including universal access to health services, or price controls for medicines and those that strengthen pharmaceutical monopolies, such as intellectual property rights.
  • Include binding labour rights subject to swift and certain enforcement, requiring each country to adopt, maintain, implement and enforce domestic laws that provide the labour rights and protections included in the International Labour Organisation’s Core Conventions and Protocols
  • Include provisions to protect existing labour standards, wages and working conditions, and prevent a global race to the bottom by barring movement of production to evade labour laws and by establishing formal protections for joint activities, including collective bargaining, by workers in both countries with the same employer
  • Exclude terms that undermine the right of governments to set farm policy and support their farmers
  • Exclude terms that undermine effective financial and corporate regulation, including human rights due diligence throughout supply chains
  • Exclude terms that undermine the Sustainable Development Goals and commitments in international law
  • Exclude terms that undermine the regulation of digital technology and protect digital rights including privacy
  • Exclude any form of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and rules that help corporations challenge proposed public interest regulations
  • Exclude terms constraining domestic procurement policies with respect to local preferences or labour, environmental, human rights, animal welfare and other requirements on goods, services and bidders
  • Include a safeguard excluding non-discriminatory domestic health, labour and other public interest policies from challenge as violating the agreement
Lastly, to ensure that trade talks follow this positive agenda, it is essential that they are carried out transparently with democratic scrutiny, meaning opening texts and draft texts following each negotiating round must be made publicly available and the process includes ongoing opportunities for public consultation, and be subject to democratic consent. Signed, U.S. Organizations:  
  1. Citizens Trade Campaign
  2. A Well-Fed World
  4. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
  5. Association of Western Pulp & Paper Workers
  6. Backbone Campaign
  7. Campaign for America's Future
  8. Citizens Trade Campaign
  10. Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
  11. Communications Workers of America (CWA)
  12. Communities and Postal Workers United
  13. Community Services Unlimited
  14. CPATH (Center for Policy Analysis on Trade and Health)
  15. Fair World Project
  16. Family Farm Defenders
  17. Food & Water Action
  18. Friends of the Earth U.S.
  19. Global Exchange
  20. GMO Free USA
  21. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  22. Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project
  23. International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  24. Jobs with Justice
  25. Labor Network for Sustainability
  26. Living Economies Forum
  27. Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
  28. National Family Farm Coalition
  29. National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Assn
  30. National LGBTQ Task Force
  31. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
  32. Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
  33. Pesticide Action Network North America
  34. Popular Resistance
  35. Pride at Work
  36. Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch
  37. Rachel Carson Council
  38. Real Food Challenge
  40. Seeding Sovereignty
  41. Sierra Club
  42. Social Security Works
  43. The Oakland Institute
  44. United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)
  1. United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
  2. United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE)
  3. United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers Union (USW)
  1. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines
  UK Organisations:  
  1. Trade Justice Movement
  2. CHEM Trust
  3. Compassion in World Farming
  4. Equality Trust
  5. Friends of the Earth
  6. Global Justice Now
  7. Just Treatment
  8. Keep Our NHS Public
  10. Pesticide Action Network UK
  11. RSPB
  12. RSPCA
  13. Soil Association
  15. SumOfUs
  16. Sustain
  17. Traidcraft Exchange
  18. UNISON
  19. Unlock Democracy
  20. War on Want
  21. We Own It