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Article

26 Apr 2022

Author:
Frances O'Grady, TUC

Opinion: UK is a long way off from a truly worker-centred approach to trade

'The UK is a long way off from a truly worker-centred approach to trade', 26 April 2022

"Today marks the final day of the trade summit in Aberdeen, where the UK and US government are.

At the summit, unions and business sit alongside the UK and US government officials – and top of the agenda is a “worker-centred” approach to trade. In a bid to woo their US counterparts, ministers have been bigging up their “worker-centred” credentials. But a fundamental problem that UK ministers will need to fix if they want to secure closer trade ties with the US is the failure to listen to unions and promote workers’ rights. 

The US has adopted a “worker-centred” approach to trade. Fundamentally, that means working with trade unions. And although the US’ approach is certainly not without fault, union participation has worked to good effect.   Trade union involvement in the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement saw the strongest labour rights enforcement chapters ever agreed, with the possibilities for sanctions to be introduced against companies that are abusing labour rights...

...A truly worker centred approach to trade would involve going beyond the US approach to put human and labour rights first when it comes to deals. Just before the trade summit, when Boris Johnson visited India, we saw a glimpse of the government’s morally questionable pursuit of trade deals above all else. The prime minister was schmoozing up to the Indian government in a bid to advance trade talks – and of course, garner some improved publicity for his battered reputation. Contrary to what some in government seem to think, trade deals are not primarily a publicity tool. They have real impacts on working people – on their jobs and their livelihoods."