A Fair Way Forward in a Global Economy
We support trade that serves our country while promoting democratic, sustainable and equitable growth around the world. Trade with foreign nations should strengthen our economy and create American jobs.
But we cannot sit idly by while our communities struggle and the American dream slips further out of reach. It is time to abandon the failed promise that any trade deal is a good deal. Our goal must be to negotiate trade agreements that work for all people, rather than passing trade policies that only enrich those at the top of the ladder while cutting out the rungs at the bottom.
We must lift up our working families, not just the corporate bottom line. It is time for trade reform that will put public interests ahead of special interests.
A Platform for Responsible Trade
Reforming Global Rules: Future World Trade Organization negotiations, including the on-going Doha Round, must be fair to working people, farmers, American firms and the environment. The rules of our global economy must ensure that international standards for workers, poor nations, public health, and the environment are all improved. Our government must show leadership in ensuring that multilateral trade rules serve the majority of Americans, while also ensuring that developing nations can grow and prosper without compromising their own democratic and development goals. We must also work for agreements that allow governments to pass nondiscriminatory laws and regulations that are in the public interest.
Democratizing the Process: It is time to replace Fast Track with a system that ensures Congress will play a stronger and more informed role in selecting and pursuing future trade agreements. This redesigned process should provide for greater transparency, encourage more democratic participation, and open up the process to the American people. We must replace Fast Track with a system that includes criteria for determining appropriate negotiating partners, including analysis of labor rights, environmental standards and the state of civil society in potential countries. Our current presidential trade authority does not mandate that agreements include binding labor and environmental protections, and this must be fixed.
Strengthening Domestic Policies: We must end tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas, and provide incentives for companies that keep good jobs here in the United States. We must actively enforce the provisions now included in trade agreements, so that the interests of workers are protected both here and abroad. In addition to strengthening our trade agreements to prevent dumping, we must ensure that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) takes enforcement seriously and actively monitors any attempts to manipulate the market and create unfair trade advantages.
Fixing Current Agreements: It is time to review and renegotiate the failed trade agreements of the past. The North American Free Trade Agreement’s shortcomings were evident when signed, and it is time to amend and fix that agreement. While NAFTA gave broad rights to investors, it paid only lip service to the importance of labor rights and environmental protection. Ten years later, CAFTA – the Central American Free Trade Agreement – had many of the same problems.
We must add binding obligations to protect freedom of association, collective bargaining and other core labor standards specified by the International Labor Organization and its Conventions. We should amend agreements to make it clear that fair laws and regulations written to protect citizens cannot be overridden simply at the request of foreign investors. We must only support future trade agreements that support these important principles.
Investing in our Strengths: We are extremely concerned about greater foreign operation and control of our own American infrastructure, especially the domestic infrastructure critical to protecting our homeland security. A major part of the problem is systematic underinvestment stemming from the desire to constantly cut costs, even when doing so has serious long and short-term ramifications on our national interests. It is time to create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to encourage more domestic financing of infrastructure modernization and operation.
Changing Trade with China: China’s human rights violations and failure to enforce labor, environment and meaningful product safety standards are unacceptable. We recognize that China’s currency manipulation and domestic subsidies gives it an unfair trade advantage and has led to U.S. job losses and the closing of thousands of American factories. We must employ the full force of our Trade Office and our State Department to remedy these critical problems. We must use every tool available to pressure the Chinese government to play by the same rules other countries are expected to follow. The Chinese government must live up to its international obligations with respect to currency manipulation, illegal subsidies and human rights.
Enforcing Trade Remedy Rules: When foreign companies or governments cheat on the rules we all agreed to abide by, they should be held accountable. We need vigorous enforcement of our trade remedy laws and more dedicated resources to ensure compliance. We need to strengthen those laws to hold countries accountable for engaging in practices that create an unfair competitive advantage — like using illegally harvested logs that devastate the environment simply to produce cheap finished goods or like currency manipulation that subsidizes exports — and we need to repair the damage done by WTO rulings that wrongly impinge on our sovereignty to enforce our trade laws fully.
Every trade agreement must, in its core text, require that signatories adopt into domestic law and effectively enforce core labor standards provided in the International Labor Organization Conventions. We also must ensure that environmental and labor provisions are meaningfully and effectively enforced with the same mechanisms and penalties governing commercial provisions.
Increasing Import Safety: We must guarantee that food, parts, components, and consumer products coming in from other countries, including China, are truly safe. Trade agreements must include protections for consumers that are as good as our own safety standards. We must create an independent, third-party review system for children’s toys and consumer products before they enter the United States. Only food, goods and manufactured items that meet American safety standards should be allowed into our market, and we must devote sufficient resources to our government to achieve this goal.
Informing Consumers: We believe that American producers should be able to distinguish their products from imported ones, and that consumers deserve the right to know the origin of their food. We therefore support immediate implementation of the Country of Origin Labeling Law, which require meat products and specialty crops, including fruits and vegetables, to indicate their country of origin.
Fairness for Farmers: Global trade negotiations have not kept pace with the agricultural landscape. Our demand for food has increased, while the cost to produce food has sky-rocketed. As a result, agriculture is in a new era that requires new thinking. Continuing the same failed trade policies only encourages a race to the bottom of commodity prices, pitting farmer-against-farmer and country-against-country, which benefits only a handful of international traders. Our current trade deregulation policy has allowed global food corporations to manipulate markets unfairly at the expense of fair prices for farmers, while gouging consumers.
It is time to end the dumping of agricultural commodities onto world markets at below the cost of production, which has forced farmers off their land, exacerbating the immigration problem. It is time to reestablish strategic food reserves, strengthen antitrust enforcement and enact other policies that will ensure fair prices for both farmers and consumers. We must stabilize volatile agricultural markets, curtail unfair market manipulation and speculation, and encourage healthy local foods and sound conservation.
Addressing Global Warming: All trade agreements must include binding environmental standards so companies cannot gain an economic advantage by moving to countries where it is cheaper to pollute. Global trade rules must not be allowed to impede the best, most efficient and balanced policy solutions to address global warming. Climate change threatens the future of all of our Earths inhabitants, and is a problem that demands immediate address without fear of penalty. Our trade rules must include exceptions for policies aimed at ameliorating the pending catastrophe of global warming.
Putting People First: The welfare of the public should never take a back seat to corporations. We should never agree to granting foreign investors greater rights than those of our own people, nor should we demand greater rights for U.S. firms operating overseas. We must ensure that foreign investor rights are strictly limited, and we must fully exempt any law or regulation written to protect public safety or promote the public good. Our judicial system is strong, and gives everyone conducting business in the United States recourse in our courts. Likewise, environmental and labor provisions must be meaningfully and effectively enforced using the same dispute resolution mechanisms and penalties currently governing intellectual property and commercial provisions. The rights of working people should be equal to those of commercial interests, and protections in trade agreements should reflect this equity.
We must also require businesses to mitigate the damages they create. When trans-national companies fail to cover the damages they inflict on common goods like the environment, public health, and workplace safety, these costs fall upon the broader community. This price becomes a hidden subsidy which places responsible companies anywhere at a competitive disadvantage.
Preserving our Laws and Sovereignty: We do not support trade efforts that undermine important federal, state and local policies and long-time practices that have been designed and implemented to benefit American families. We must limit the right to sue American government in foreign tribunals, and ensure public policies written to protect our people are not overridden at the request of foreign investors. Trade agreements must not be used to limit Americans affordable access to high quality, safe, essential services. Nor must we tolerate trade agreements limiting our ability to tackle major challenges to our nation and the world such as ensuring universal health care and a global plan on climate change.
Trade We Can Believe In
Future agreements must address the needs of ordinary Americans on issues such as jobs, wages, the environment, agriculture, consumer safety and public health. After decades of pressing for top-down reform, we now need a trade agenda that advances democracy and economic development from the bottom up. It is time to recognize that trade and investment are not just ends in themselves, but can instead serve as a means for achieving greater societal goals.
There’s nothing protectionist in demanding that our trade policies spread the benefits of globalization to everyone, instead of directing wealth to a few at the top. Trade can be a cornerstone of our growth, but we will not be able to sustain growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge new trade policies that truly reward the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet.