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USCCB: remember workers when discussing Pacific free-trade agreement

Catholic World News - January 21, 2014

As the United States Congress discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that potentially involves 13 nations, the chairman of two committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offered eight principles for consideration.

“While the USCCB does not take positions for or against particular trade agreements, we would like to take this opportunity to offer principles for your consideration that defend human life and dignity, protect the environment and public health, and promote justice and peace in our world,” said Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace and Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

First among the principles is labor protection:

The Church teaches work has inherent dignity. We support the protection of worker rights, including the right to organize, as well as compliance with internationally-agreed worker standards. Our concern with job loss in our own urban and rural communities requires that any agreement be accompanied by firm commitments to help US workers, as well as their families and communities, cope with both the social and financial strain of dislocation that free trade might bring about. Similarly, our concern extends to the human rights implications that any US action can have for the people of other countries, especially developing nations. In particular, this requires special attention devoted to safe working conditions, reasonable work hours, time off, living family wages and other recognized social benefits. This also demands commitments to provide aid, either directly or through international institutions, to displaced workers and their families in countries affected by the agreements.

Other principles involve indigenous peoples, migration, agriculture, sustainable development and the care of creation, intellectual property rights, dispute resolution mechanisms, and participation.

“It is critical the people have a voice in decisions that touch their lives,” the bishops said. “Human dignity demands transparency and the right of people to participate in decisions that impact them.”

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