Press Releases

Labor and Human Rights Coalition Call for Suspension of Trade Discussion with Vietnam

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, a coalition of labor and human rights leaders called on negotiations with Vietnam around the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be suspended until the country can prove it has met basic labor, environmental and human right standards. International Brotherhood of Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said that the country’s already poor working conditions and abuse should be addressed before the global community rewards them with greater trading privileges.

The call comes the day before Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang visits President Obama, an occasion where the TPP is likely to be discussed.

“President Obama must hold Vietnam accountable for its record on worker and human rights before America rewards the country with greater trading privileges,” said Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa. “We have seen the tragedy resulting from lax enforcement of labor standards and human rights in Bangladesh – we cannot enter into a trade agreement with a country that shows the same disregard for its citizens.”

Joining them on the press call were Scott Nova, Executive Director, Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) and John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch. Nova discussed a new report that spells out, in detail, a number of worker abuses in Vietnam, which include forced labor, child labor and gender discrimination. Sifton shared some of the most recent examples of the country’s human rights abuses as well.

A copy of the new report, “Made in Vietnam,” can be found here:

Among the key findings in the report are descriptions of major human rights and working rights problems, such as: forced labor and child labor; pregnancy and gender-based discrimination; health and safety hazards; excessive working hours and inadequate wages. Additionally, the report indicated that advocating for labor rights in Vietnam is more difficult than in China.

Yesterday, Congressman George Miller (D-CA) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman asking, in light of the abuses detailed in the report, if Vietnam is in compliance with existing labor standards.

A copy of the letter can be found here:

A number of organizations are calling for the suspension of trade discussions until Vietnam ends the abuses and discrimination. Among these groups are Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), UNITE HERE, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, and United Students Against Sweatshops.

“As in Bangladesh, global corporations have responded to the dismal labor rights situation in Vietnam by pouring more business into the country, rewarding the government and local producers and giving them every incentive to continue down the same destructive path,” said Scott Nova, Executive Director, Worker Rights Consortium. “This harms not only workers in Vietnam, but workers globally, as Vietnam’s growing power in the global economy accelerates the race to the bottom.”

Human rights groups have also been critical of Vietnam’s failure to improve its general human rights record as TPP negotiations have continued. Human Rights Watch issued a statement July 22 in advance of the July 25 meeting.   

“The simple fact is that Senate will not consent to a trade agreement, and Congress will not pass laws implementing one, unless Vietnam’s general human rights record improves,” said John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director. “The Obama Administration should put talks on hold until Vietnam agrees to release dissidents, allow freedom of expression, and move toward democratic reform.”

Just last week, the Obama Administration outlined a series of labor and worker safety steps that the Bangladesh government has to take to have trade privileges with the United States restored following high-profile worksite disasters earlier this year.

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