Shared Priorities for Indo-Pacific Trade Deal

Over 400 labor and civil society organizations outlined shared priorities for the pending Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) trade agreement in a letter sent to President Biden.  The letter comes shortly before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is expected to introduce U.S. proposals for IPEF’s labor, environment and digital trade chapters during a key negotiating round being held later this month in Bali, Indonesia.

“A wide range of organizations across the United States are ready to fight for an Indo-Pacific trade deal that furthers the President’s vision of creating a new model for trade and international cooperation that prioritizes working people, combats global climate change and reins in Big Tech abuses,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which organized the letter.  “Whatever labor, environmental and digital positions the U.S. ultimately introduces will play a big role in determining whether IPEF is helpful in advancing these goals.”

The 403 organizational signers on the letter include: the Amazon Labor Union, Amnesty International USA, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, BlueGreen Alliance, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Greenpeace USA, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Association of Consumer Advocates, National Family Farm Coalition, National Organization for Women, Public Citizen, Presbyterian Church USA, Rethink Trade, Sierra Club, Trade Justice Education Fund, United Brotherhood of Carpenters, United Methodist Church General Board of Church & Society, United Steelworkers (USW) and many others.

Together, organizations expressed interest in working with the administration “so that any final deal corrects the errors of past trade pacts and becomes a useful model for future agreements that deliver real benefits to people and the planet.” They offered the following joint recommendations:
  • On Labor: “To advance your administration’s promised worker-centered trade model, IPEF must include strong labor rights commitments based on standards set in the International Labor Organization’s core conventions, and it must also include facility-specific enforcement mechanisms, building off the Rapid Response Mechanism in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). IPEF signatory countries must also be required to make the changes to their labor laws necessary to align them with their new IPEF obligations before the pact is signed by the United States. IPEF must take steps forward relative to the USMCA, not backward, on labor rights and labor enforcement.”
  • On the Environment: “Given that previous U.S. trade agreements, including the USMCA, fail to even mention the term ‘climate change,’ IPEF will need to be particularly ambitious in its climate provisions if it is to help the United States and Indo-Pacific region achieve their climate and environmental justice goals. Among other environmental measures, IPEF must require that countries adopt, implement and maintain binding climate standards, and must likewise extend swift-and-certain enforcement mechanisms to those provisions.”
  • On “Digital Trade”: “On the matter of ‘digital trade,’ IPEF’s terms must not be allowed to undermine the administration’s domestic anti-monopoly and tech regulation agenda by locking in international rules that threaten consumer privacy, data security, worker rights, civil rights, algorithm justice and competition policy here and throughout the Indo-Pacific. In comparison to the USMCA’s digital terms, any data flow guarantees or limits on safeguarding where data can be processed or stored must be scaled back significantly in any IPEF deal, with much broader exceptions added … IPEF also must not include provisions that create special secrecy guarantees for Big Tech firms’ source codes and algorithms so that they can evade the pre-review and audits that are a feature of many criminal justice, civil rights, worker rights and other bills and the administration’s AI Bill of Rights.”
The letter also addresses IPEF’s potential Good Regulatory Practice and Agricultural provisions.  Regarding IPEF’s negotiating process, it further calls on the administration to withdraw confidentiality agreements between negotiating parties and take other specific steps to improve transparency and public participation.

A copy of the letter and complete list of signers is available online at: