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TPP: Raising the Bar on Labor Rights and Protecting the Environment

Values, CompanyDavid Hayer, Gap Inc. bloggerComment

There are many ways to do more than sell clothes — and Gap Inc. has woven the values of providing opportunity, driving sustainable practices and supporting the local community through its business since the beginning.

As a global company, one way the company has attempted to improve the communities in which it operates is by shaping how international trade is conducted. In part, that means ensuring trade agreements are designed to promote stronger labor and environmental standards in our trading partners.

That's one reason Gap Inc. strongly supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that includes the United States and 11 other countries. Together, these 12 countries compose nearly 40 percent of global GDP and are home to more than 800 million people.

Many countries have trade programs to promote economic development in the developing world by offering duty-free access for goods. The United States has such a program, but unlike many other nations in the world, the duty-free provisions exclude a significant product — clothes — made in many of those developing countries. That exclusion puts Gap Inc., and the workers who make its clothes, at a disadvantage.

But the TPP will create new economic opportunities and include binding, enforceable obligations to protect workers' rights and the environment across the Asia-Pacific region. Read on to learn how it stands to accomplish that and more.

Promoting Core Values

The TPP agreement includes the strongest labor provisions of any trade agreement in history. Under TPP, U.S. trading partners have made firm and enforceable commitments to meet International Labor Organization (ILO) core labor standards. That includes establishing laws on acceptable conditions of work related to minimum wages, hours of work and occupational safety and health. This legal framework will complement the work Gap Inc. is already doing on the ground through its Code of Vendor Conduct.

Setting Sustainable Environmental Protections

The TPP's robust environmental commitments will protect the health and future of our planet. That's because TPP countries will be required to enforce environmental laws that address a range of issues, such as endangered species, wetlands, oceans and fisheries, forests and wildlife and the ozone. In addition to commitments to combat illegal logging, illegal fishing and wildlife trafficking, the TPP will also protect the marine environment from ship pollution and promote sustainable fisheries-management practices.

Supporting Communities and Changing Lives

When Gap Inc. created P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement) in 2007, the goal was to make a positive difference for the women who make our clothes by teaching them critical skills for navigating life both at work and at home. More than 35,000 women in 12 countries, including a key country in the TPP — Vietnam — have already participated in P.A.C.E., and the company has made a commitment to expand P.A.C.E. to reach one million women and girls by the end of 2020.

Gap Inc. is also working with a coalition of apparel retailers, trade and development associations and the ILO's Better Work program to establish the Race to the Top initiative in Vietnam, which seeks to lessen the social and environmental impact of apparel and footwear production in Vietnam. Race to the Top seeks to catalyze the growth of an equitable and environmentally sustainable apparel and footwear industry in Vietnam by creating incentives and cost-efficiencies.

Do More Than Sell Clothes

TPP is a commitment to ensure that American companies can compete on a level playing field around the globe while establishing and enforcing strong labor and environmental protections. With the enactment of the TPP, the United States will drive change, promote innovation and elevate standards across the globe.

Gap Inc. urges members of the United States Congress to do the right thing for workers and families in the United States and around the globe by ratifying the TPP this year.