Sunday, January 28, 2007

Unions Express Concerns Over Malaysia-US Free Trade Agreement

Sources: US Unions Rally Against Malaysian Pact, Malaysia Free Trade Agreement, Why Should Malaysians Worry about a Free Trade Agreement With the U.S.?

United States and Malaysian trade unions opposed negotiations towards a bilateral free trade agreement until both countries address workers' concerns. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and the Malaysian Trades Unions Congress (MTUC) met in Kuala Lumpur and agreed on a joint declaration asserting that any economic cooperation between the two countries must also benefit the working people and communities. Both groups want to avoid increasing levels of violations to workers' rights and to remind the governments that the companies should not be the only ones to gain in this arrangement.
The AFL-CIO is a federation composed of 54 national and international labor unions across the U.S., which has traditionally focused on protecting jobs. The MTUC forcuses its concerns on protecting workers' rights. Malaysian unions hope to use the joint declaration as leverage to buttress workers' rights.
Critics compare this agreement with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which had arguably resulted in the loss of over a million jobs and business opportunities in the United States. Other criticisms include that agreements like NAFTA kept wages low, increased inequality, and undermined public health care protections. The proponents of the joint declaration to protect U.S. and Malaysian workers and jobs met opposition by the Chambers of Commerce if each respective country as well. They argue that Malaysia's employment laws disfavor companies too much as it is, making it very hard for employers to terminate poorly performing workers. The Unions view this as a thinly veiled argument to make it easier to lay off workers.

1) Do you think that the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Malaysia will result in lower wages and fewer benefits, as Unionists fear?
2) How can the trade agreements be structured to benefit working families as well as increase the profits of multinational corporations?
3) Does achieving economic growth necessarily be at the expense of labor rights?

No comments: