The Workers Who Regret Trump’s Scrapping of a Trade Deal
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Do Thi Minh Hanh, a labor activist, had grown accustomed to being beaten, hospitalized and jailed for her work in a country where independent trade unions are banned.
越南胡志明市——在这个禁止独立工会的国家，劳工活动人士杜氏明杏(Do Thi Minh Hanh)已习惯了遭殴打、入院治疗，以及坐牢。
So it gave her hope for a reprieve when Vietnam reached a trade deal with the United States and other countries that called for its members to bolster workers’ rights and protect independent unions.
That hope fizzled in late January, when President Trump pulled the United States out of the trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with the stroke of a pen.
“The Vietnamese government will use this as an excuse to suppress the labor movement,” Ms. Hanh said. “They never wanted to have independent unions in Vietnam.”
That labor-rights promise has become collateral damage as the United States turns inward under Mr. Trump. As the new president vows to rip up or rethink relations with trading partners, he could also abandon accompanying pledges the United States has won from other countries to protect workers’ rights and the environment.
Critics of the labor and environmental protections in the T.P.P. and other trade agreements consider them a political sop that amount to unenforceable window dressing. Still, America’s new trade retreat could allow countries like China to set the terms of global commerce.
For example, America’s withdrawal from T.P.P. paves the way for China to advance its own Asian free-trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The China-led deal, said Rajiv Biswas, the Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Global Insight, “is less ambitious in its scope of coverage, and does not include major reforms to labor protection standards.”
例如，美国从TPP中撤出，给中国推进自己的亚洲自由贸易协定“区域全面经济伙伴关系”铺平了道路。环球通视(IHS Global Insight)亚太首席经济学家拉吉夫·比斯瓦斯(Rajiv Biswas)说，中国牵头的这个协议“在涵盖范围上没有那么雄心勃勃，并且不要求在劳动保护标准上进行重大改革”。
American negotiators in recent years have added labor and environmental protections to trade deals as anti-globalization sentiment rose in the United States. Over the past 24 years, the United States has struck 13 free-trade agreements covering 19 countries that include worker and environmental protections. In most cases, the deals merely call for the countries to follow their own laws.
Supporters of these measures argue that they can have an impact. Following the American example, the European Union has started adding similar requirements to its trade deals. American negotiators have also strengthened the language somewhat in more recent trade deals, including the T.P.P.
Those agreements had “real teeth in terms of trade sanctions” said David A. Gantz, a law professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson who is an expert on international trade agreements. “They might have made a real difference had T.P.P. gone forward.”
位于图森的亚利桑那大学法学教授戴维·A·甘兹(David A. Gantz)是国际贸易协定方面的专家，他说，这些协议“在贸易制裁方面具有切实的意义”，“如果TPP继续推进，它们可能已经产生了切实效果”。
He added, “These provisions in U.S. free-trade agreements can be more than fig leaves, but with an important caveat: The U.S. government in particular has to be willing to be active in enforcing them.”
That can be tough, given that the country on the other end of the treaty may have to pass new laws to comply, labor groups say.
“Any trade agreement must have strong labor provisions to mitigate a race to the bottom,” said Sharon Waxman, the president of the Fair Labor Association. “But what we find is that trade agreements are often wrongly viewed as a substitute for national laws that protect workers’ rights and ensure they are compensated fairly.”
“任何贸易协定都必须带有强有力的劳工条款，以减少向下竞争的现象。”公平劳工协会(Fair Labor Association)主席沙伦·韦克斯曼(Sharon Waxman)说：“但是我们发现，贸易协定常常被错误地视为一种替代品，用来代替保护工人权利、确保他们获得公平报酬的国家法律。”
In a 10-page side agreement, the T.P.P. would have required Vietnam to criminalize the use of forced labor and broaden enforcement to apply to cases of debt bondage. On labor unions, workers would be allowed to form their own grass-roots unions that could bargain collectively and lead strikes. Vietnam has started drafting some of these changes but timing on their execution is uncertain, said Oliver Massmann, a partner at the law firm Duane Morris Vietnam. A separate trade agreement between Vietnam and the European Union will also target labor conditions when it takes effect in January, but it lacks the stronger enforcement measures of the T.P.P.
在一份长达10页的补充协议中，TPP要求越南将强迫劳动定为刑事犯罪，并将扩大执法以适用于债役案件。关于工会，工人将可以形成自己的基层工会，进行集体谈判并领导罢工。越南杜安—莫里斯律师事务所(Duane Morris Vietnam)的合伙人奥利弗·马斯曼(Oliver Massmann)表示，越南已开始起草一些法律变更，但执行时间尚不确定。越南和欧盟之间的单独贸易协定将在明年1月生效，它也包含针对劳动条件的内容，但缺乏TPP那种更加强有力的执行措施。
Vietnam’s economy has taken off as China’s labor costs have risen, sending factory owners to look for cheaper labor elsewhere. Labor activists say many of its factories have improved from the blatant sweatshops that prevailed in the 1990s, prompting companies like Nike to impose monitoring and compliance standards on suppliers in Vietnam.
Still, Vietnam remains plagued with labor problems. A 2015 survey of its garment industry found that most of the factories that were inspected suppressed independent unions and failed health and safety checks.
In Vietnam, organizing is done quietly. To pave the way for one strike at a shoe factory, a colleague spent weeks in the area talking to workers and building contacts. Ms. Hanh wrote fliers and taught a core group of workers how to organize and strike. She counts the resulting January 2010 strike of 10,000 workers as a victory because it resulted in big pay raises for workers, even though she and two of her colleagues were thrown in prison.
Released four years later, Ms. Hanh found grass-roots organizing had become much harder. She said she was often followed now, making it difficult to meet with timid workers. One of the last times she went to a worker protest, in late 2015, she was beaten by police. Now, she said, she devotes most of her time to campaigning on social media and raising concerns with big Western companies.
She was skeptical that local authorities would have complied with the toughest labor protections in T.P.P., adding that chances were good they would have sought out loopholes. Still, she says, the pact could have given her a tool to use when pushing labor issues with lawmakers and factory bosses alike.
“I would have used the clause of T.P.P. about the right to form independent unions — unions that are not controlled by the company and the government,” she said.
“Maybe now because of Trump, our dream about independent unions in Vietnam has yet to come true,” she added. “But we will still try to help the workers, because if they fight alone they will not succeed.”