Anticipating an announcement from the President-elect of the United States Donald Trump to either renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — as well as reactions from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto — broad civil society networks from Mexico, the United States, Canada and Quebec are making clear to their governments that any renegotiation process must be transparent and participatory, and that the resulting NAFTA replacement must improve peoples’ lives and livelihoods and protect the environment in all three countries.
The networks from the various countries, representing labor unions, farmers, consumers, women, environmentalists, and human rights organizations, have been working together since the inception of the NAFTA negotiations in 1991, and have long criticized NAFTA and called for its replacement. They reject any narratives that pit workers in one country against workers in another. Rather, they view the NAFTA model as an expansion of corporate power at the expense of people and the planet and a failure for working people in Mexico, the United States, and Canada. They are united in their demands for a renegotiation that prioritizes human needs over corporate greed throughout North America, and against any deal that falls short of this essential test.
“We know that the trade debate is not about the U.S. versus the rest of the world, but rather about multinational corporations versus the rest of us. Our opposition to corporate trade deals like NAFTA has always been rooted in respect for workers’ rights across the globe, commitment to climate justice and dedication to a new model of trade that puts human needs ahead of corporate profits,” said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the U.S.-based Citizens Trade Campaign.
Victor Suarez from the Mexico Better Off Without TPP Platform explained that, “In Mexico, the government faces an unprecedented crisis of credibility and legitimacy. It is stunned, as it has been upholding the neoliberal dogma for so long that it does not realize that it has failed for some time, and does not know what to do with Trump’s initiative. The way the next president of the United States is confronting this failure of the model represented by NAFTA is not appropriate, and we will fight those proposals that would have negative consequences for sustainable and just development of Mexico. We have been elaborating alternative proposals that we hope to enrich through discussions with U.S. and Canadian organizations. The failure of the NAFTA model now requires us to consider the need for a social, democratic, sustainable and peaceful way out of NAFTA.”
Raul Burbano from the Canadian network Common Frontiers stated that, “Any trade agreement must be compatible with the Human Rights covenants as set out by the United Nations. We need to develop new models of cooperation and trade that have at their core fair trade, and economic relations based on social justice, sovereignty and sustainable development.”
“We said then, and know now, the promises made to sell the agreement were false. Instead, we have seen a proven rise in inequality, impoverishment of the vast majority of the population, loss of employment, job insecurity, environmental degradation, deterioration of social cohesion and increased violence,” said Pierre-Yves Serinet of the Quebec Network on Continental Integration (RQIC). “NAFTA altered the balance of power in favor of transnational corporations against the people in the three countries through rules on intellectual property and investment, among other provisions, and against the public interest, the environment, and governments’ legislative power to protect them”, he added. NAFTA established an Investor-to-state dispute settlement mechanism that gives corporations the ability to challenge democratic laws with multi-million dollar demands before panels of corporate lawyers.
The networks, together with civil society organizations in other countries, defeated the attempt to expand the NAFTA model in the Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2005 and opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) long before the U.S. presidential candidates. They are committed to strengthening the trinational coordination across economic and social sectors and to intensify the fight in North America against this flawed trade model.