Landmark New Fair Trade Legislation: The TRADE Act
The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act — or the TRADE Act, for short (HR.3012/S.2821) was first introduced in Congress in 2008. Today, it has over 140 cosponsors in the House and Senate and the strong support of a wide range of labor, environmental, family farm and faith organizations. This landmark new fair trade legislation includes:
- Process for reviewing and renegotiating existing trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA and the WTO
- Mandatory criteria for future trade agreements regarding labor, environmental, food safety, intellectual property, service, procurement, investment, agricultural, national security, states’ rights, anti-dumpingand dispute resolutionprovisions.
- Reassertion of Congressional authority and public oversight in trade policymaking.
Take a stand for fair trade! Please urge your Members of Congress to cosponsor the TRADE Act. Oregon Congressmen Peter DeFazio and David Wu and Senator Jeff Merkley have already signed on as cosponsors — but the rest of the delegation needs to hear from you. WRITE YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ONLINE BY CLICKING HERE, or call them through the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
The TRADE Act’s basic provisions:
Section 3 (Review): Requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive public review of existing trade agreements, including economic outcomes in the U.S. and abroad, and various security and social indicators.Also requires an analysis of how current agreements measure up to Section 4 of the Act.
Section 4 (Standards): Mandatory criteria for what must and must not be included in trade agreements regarding labor, the environment, product safety, agriculture, public services, government procurement, investment, intellectual property, anti-dumping, dispute resolution, national security, states’ rights and more.
Section 5 (Renegotiation): Requires the President to submit renegotiation plans to remedy the gaps identified by the Comptroller General between current trade pacts and the criteria listed in Section 4 prior to the negotiation of any new trade agreements and prior to Congressional consideration of any pending trade agreements.
Section 6 (Congressional Oversight): Establishes a committee comprised of the chairs and ranking members of each Congressional committee is implicated by trade agreements to review, and if necessary, amend, the President’s plan for renegotiations.
Section 7 (Goals): A Sense-of-the-Congress provision that describes what good trade agreements should accomplish.
Section 8 (Policymaking): A Sense-of-the-Congress provision that describes criteria for trade policymaking procedures that should replace Fast Track.
The TRADE Act’s new standards include:
Labor: Countries must adopt into domestic law and effectively enforce the International Labor Organization’s core labor standards.Failure to do so subjects parties to dispute resolution and enforcement mechanisms that are at least as stringent as those for commercial claims.A commission of labor rights specialists is also empowered to conduct investigations and initiate enforcement actions.
Environment: Countries are prohibited from eliminating, weakening or failing to enforce domestic environmental protections for trade purposes.Trade in illegally-harvested resources is banned.Countries must fully implement and enforce all multilateral environmental agreements to which the U.S. is a party.Failure to do so is subject to dispute resolution and enforcement.
Consumer Safety: Food and feed may only be imported into the U.S. if it meets or exceeds U.S. safety standards.The FDA and CPSC are instructed to review the regulations of trading partners and ensure that other products entering the U.S. meet or exceed domestic safety standards.
Services: Trade agreements cannot be used to require privatization or deregulation of services.
Investment: Countries maintain the right to regulate foreign investment according to their own priorities, and to place restrictions on speculative capital.Investor-to-state dispute resolution is eliminated.
Agriculture: Countries are allowed to develop strategic agricultural reserves and enact policies allowing for fair remuneration for growers and farm workers.Countries may maintain anti-dumping policies and U.S. anti-trust laws cannot be preempted.
Intellectual Property: Access to essential medicines and global warming-reduction technologies may not be obstructed.Patents on traditional knowledge must be consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity.
States’ Rights: States can only be required to comply with procurement, services or investment provisions with their explicit prior informed consent.
What People Are Saying about the TRADE Act:
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:
“This bill … outlines a new U.S. trade strategy — one that puts a priority on the interests of working class Americans, farmers, the environment, and domestic manufacturers, not just multinational corporations. The AFL-CIO is proud to support the TRADE Act. It is past time to restructure U.S. trade policy to work for working families — here at home and around the world.”
Change to Win Executive Director Greg Tarpinian:
“The TRADE Act lays the foundation for creating fair trade agreements that will help working families achieve the American Dream in the 21st century economy.”
Sierra Club Trade Program Director Margrete Strand Rangnes:
“This Act has the potential to set straight the history of NAFTA and the WTO to encourage truly sustainable development that promises to benefit the majority of the world’s people …while protecting our resources for future generations.”
Teamsters General President James Hoffa:
“At long last, we can see an end to 14 years of disastrous trade deals. The TRADE Act would make sure that the benefits of trade go to workers as well as the richest few. It sets new rules for global trade that create good jobs and improve working conditions everywhere. The TRADE Act lays out the foundation of how a trade agreement should be negotiated, and what it can and cannot include. Finally, we can have fair trade that workers everywhere deserve.”
CWA President Larry Cohen:
“The TRADE Act restores Congress’s constitutional right of oversight in trade policy. The Bush Administration has trampled on that right. The landmark legislation… will ensure that no matter who occupies the Oval Office, Congress will have a meaningful say in trade policy.”
Friends of the Earth PresidentBrent Blackwelder:
“Trade agreements should support, rather than undermine, environmental protection. The TRADE Act encourages responsible behavior, providing a blueprint for a far better and more balanced way to conduct international trade.”
UNITE HERE General President Bruce Raynor:
“This bill breaks new ground on the enforcement of labor rights, environmental protection, food and product safety, procurement, safeguards against surges of imports, trade remedies against unfair trade practices and the ability for countries to regulate foreign investment.”
National Family Farm Coalition President Ben Burkett:
“We applaud the introduction of the TRADEAct. The legislation is clear that fair trade begins with farmers being able to earn fair prices reflecting cost of production, fair treatment of farm labor, and limitations against unfair dumping practices. Itallows for all countries who are part of a trade agreement toestablish strategic food and energy reserves, an importantpolicy instrumentthat must be reinstated to address the growingglobal food crisis.”
Public Citizen Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach:
“The TRADE Act is exciting because it describes concretely new trade and globalization policies that many Americans would support and shifts the debate toward future consensus about what we are for, rather than focusing on opposition to the current model. Corporate interests have hijacked past trade pacts to get special protections — patent extensions that jack up drug prices, subsidies for offshoring production and more. The TRADE Act tips the scales back in balance with a trade agenda that also suits workers, the environment and everyday consumers.”
United Steelworkers Legislative Director Holly Hart:
“The USW strongly encourages you to cosponsor this groundbreaking legislation. We must take action now to shape the future debate on trade.”
International Association of Machinists Statement:
“The TRADE Act represents a fresh new start to replacing the failed trade model that continues to destroy jobs, lives and communities.”
Americans for Democratic Action Statement:
“The time has come for the United States to take a new step forward on global trade so that everyone benefits. Americans for Democratic Action wholeheartedly supports the TRADE Act as the approach to move us in the right direction.”
Citizens Trade CampaignNational Director Andrew Gussert:
“This Act is a balanced way to expand trade, offering us all a fair way forward. It means trade agreements will better serve a majority of people on issues such as jobs, the environment, human rights and public health, giving us all a model we can support.”