Machinists Union Urges Pro-Worker Provisions in Biden Administration’s Proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 26, 2022 – The 600,000-member International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), recently submitted a series of suggestions to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Commerce, offering pro-worker guidance as the two federal agencies are shaping a U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). The framework seeks to solidify ties with nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

IAM International President Robert Martinez, Jr., submitted formal comments in the U.S. federal registry, urging a focus on “trade policy that is worker-centric and does not follow any of the flawed trade policies in our past that have resulted in scores of job losses in the U.S.”

“In short, the IPEF agreement should place workers first. This means provisions like enforceable labor and environmental standards,” Martinez wrote. “Our nation’s workers often rely on trade, and what we want is a fair playing field, not policies that force U.S. workers to compete with horribly-abused sweatshop workers overseas. Our nation’s workforce can compete with other countries when we are given a fair chance.”

The Biden administration is in the early stages of shaping the IPEF, which has not finalized involved nations and could take nearly two years to complete. The proposed framework has been labeled as a means to counter China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The IPEF will includes the following pillars: fair and resilient trade; supply chain resilience; infrastructure clean energy, and decarbonization; and tax and anti-corruption.

Martinez offered policy suggestions such as enforceable, labor and environmental rules, as well as transparency in the negotiations process. He also cautioned that the IPEF should not resemble the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a once-proposed flawed trade deal under the Obama administration that would have gutted the nation’s manufacturing sector.

“Moreover, the problem this country has faced with supply chains is simply the result of bad trade policies that has allowed American jobs to go overseas and corporations to profit from low wages,” Martinez wrote. “Will IPEF’s proposal seek to address the real problems of our supply chain with remedies that will benefit the American worker? The Machinists Union is not sure that IPEF is the recovery road we seek, especially when real protective enforcement mechanisms are lacking.”

The IAM has not taken a position on the proposed IPEF, but has been actively engaged in continued discussions with the Biden administration’s trade officials and members of Congress.

The economic framework does not require congressional approval, but Martinez wrote that Congress, as well as labor unions and civil groups “should also be involved in the discussions and review process of this very important trade policy that will impact U.S. workers and their families.”

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is one of the largest and most diverse industrial trade unions in North America, representing approximately 600,000 active and retired members in the aerospace, defense, airlines, railroad, manufacturing, transit, healthcare, automotive and other industries.

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Updated: April 27, 2022 — 5:05 am