Strict oversight and enforcement—including regular compliance monitoring and tariff snap-back provisions when rules are violated—are fundamental to ensuring that labor rights are actually respected. In the past, toothless enforcement mechanisms have made the labor and environmental chapters of trade agreements meaningless. Going forward, we must get the rules precisely right.
For the TPP, this means partner nations must change their laws before the agreement goes into effect. Consider Vietnam, which has never allowed workers to choose their own representatives; the country’s single labor union is controlled by the Communist Party. Or Mexico, where—despite promises made while negotiating NAFTA—freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain are severely limited. Both nations—as well as Brunei and Malaysia—will have to responsibly update their labor laws and practices in order to implement the TPP.