Civil Society Speaks Out on NAFTA Renegotiation

With the formal process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) finally underway, labor, environmental, family farm, consumer and faith leaders are reiterating their demands for a new agreement that puts human needs ahead of corporate profits in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

The organizations, which were key in building a congressional majority against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), are vowing to fight any deal that fails to eliminate NAFTA’s threats to good jobs, wages and healthy communities or that fails to add the terms needed for an agreement to provide broad benefits to working people.  This includes elimination of NAFTA’s special investor protections for corporations that make it easier to offshore American jobs and empower corporations to attack domestic laws before tribunals of three corporate lawyers and demand unlimited sums of taxpayer money.

Organized Labor

Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Chris Shelton: “Working people want a NAFTA trade deal that works for our families and our communities, not another giveaway to investors and Wall Street.  We’re hearing too many Trump Administration officials praise the worse elements of bad trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership that would send more jobs overseas and allow multinational corporations to attack laws and regulations they don’t like.  That’s unacceptable to millions of working families who are watching to see if President Trump keeps his promise.”

International Association of Machinists International President Robert Martinez, Jr.: “NAFTA represents the failed trade model that we warned about. Since its implementation, hundreds of thousands workers in the U.S. and Canada have lost their jobs as company after company have moved production to Mexico, a country where fundamental human rights do not exist. NAFTA should be dissolved immediately. If policymakers insist on renegotiating it, real and enforceable labor standards based on ILO Conventions must be included in the core of the agreement, investor to state dispute mechanisms must be deleted and rules of origin must be strong. Among other things, Mexico must demonstrate that fundamental human rights are enforced and effective, before enjoying the benefits of the trade agreement.”

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa: “The Teamsters opposed NAFTA from the get-go more than 25 years ago.  While we look forward to discussions with new USTR Lighthizer, any NAFTA renegotiation that doesn’t make highway safety a priority, and specifically cross-border long-haul trucking, is a non-starter.”

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard: “The Mexican government’s policy of supporting corrupt, employer-dominated ‘protection unions’ has prevented workers from organizing and suppressed wages. In 2014, over 20.5 million more Mexicans lived below the poverty line than in 1994 when NAFTA passed, while the rest of Latin America saw a drop in poverty that was more than five times as much as that of Mexico. Workers, no matter their country, feel the impact of failed trade policies.  Negotiators must address the economic inequality caused by trade policies that placed corporate rights over the rights of citizens.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: “While the president has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in history, his administration has given conflicting signals as to its priorities, raising the prospect that some of NAFTA’s most problematic elements could remain intact.  Working people have set a high standard for the deep reforms we are seeking in new trade deals and policies: we must elevate and effectively enforce workers’ rights and environmental standards, eliminate excessive corporate privileges, prioritize good jobs and safeguard democracy. This is the standard we will use to judge any renegotiation.”


Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune: “NAFTA remains broken, but Trump’s empty rhetoric will not fix it. We need a serious plan to replace NAFTA with a people-first approach to trade. All indications thus far show that Trump will fail to deliver. Donald Trump promised that he’d fix NAFTA on his first day in office. 119 days later he has managed to send Congress a single page that failed to include any real plan to fix a deal that has undermined environmental protections, eliminated jobs, undercut wages, polluted our air and water, and fueled climate change.  If Trump’s cabinet full of corporate polluters and Wall Street billionaires is any indication of what he has planned, his NAFTA redux will likely include even more handouts to the corporations that have used NAFTA to profit off of Americans’ misfortune for more than 20 years.”

Friend of the Earth President Erich Pica: “Trump’s approach to NAFTA renegotiation presents a clear and present danger to the environment of North America and planet as a whole.  Trump will use NAFTA renegotiation to continue to gut both domestic environmental laws and undermine international environmental agreements. Further, we are gravely concerned the administration will import language from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal in an effort to undercut essential environmental, public health, and climate safeguards.”


Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach: “Trump promised to make NAFTA ‘much better’ for working people. Today’s notice is markedly vague. But Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation plan that leaked in late March described just what the corporate lobby is demanding: using NAFTA talks to revive parts of the TPP, like expanded investor incentives to offshore jobs that could make NAFTA even worse for working people. The obvious measure of whether NAFTA renegotiation is intended to benefit working people is if Trump makes clear he will eliminate NAFTA’s investor protections that make it easier to offshore American jobs and empower corporations to attack our laws before tribunals of three corporate lawyers to demand unlimited sums of taxpayer money.”

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter: “”Re-opening the flawed NAFTA could fix old problems or create new ones. NAFTA desperately needs a top-to-bottom overhaul that puts the interests of communities, workers, consumers and the environment ahead of corporations. But the wing of the White House that’s influenced by Wall Street seems eager to use the renegotiation as a vehicle to insert the worst deregulatory provisions from the scuttled TPP into a new, even worse NAFTA.”

Family Farm

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson: “NAFTA installed, and has since cemented, a set of trade parameters that have benefitted corporate America and damaged rural American communities and economies.  Provisions like Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tip the scales, consolidating money and power into the hands of multinational corporations. They need to be eliminated to support vibrant family farm operations and rural communities.”

National Family Farm Coalition Acting Executive Director Lisa Griffith: “Leaked documents of the NAFTA renegotiations suggest an ongoing focus on expanding corporate power. The Administration’s intent to destroy US public protections in the areas of agriculture, agricultural technology and food safety will endow agribusiness, aquaculture and processed food corporations while depreciating family farmers and fishermen, farm workers, consumers and their communities, just as NAFTA has done for 20 years.”

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Executive Director Juliette Majot: “Family farmers in all three countries have been hurt by rules in NAFTA’s approach to expand trade for agribusiness, while encouraging low prices for farmers. We need different trade and farm rules that strengthen rural communities, protect the environment, pay farmers fairly and build healthier food systems, but there is no evidence that the Trump administration will go beyond an ‘Agribusiness First’ approach.”


Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Director Gerry Lee: “In his letter, ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, Pope Francis warns us of a globalization of indifference. Our NAFTA trade model has been indifferent to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Maryknoll missioners have witnessed an increase in hunger, income inequality, and environmental degradation in Mexico since NAFTA went into force. We need a new trade model that prioritizes human dignity and God’s creation over corporate profits.”

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice Senior Government Relations Advocate Laura Peralta: “Renegotiating NAFTA offers the possibility to address food insecurity, remedy the incentive that drives rural dislocation, and fix other problems. However, to do so, the Administration must seek changes that puts the needs of vulnerable communities first.  To do so, there must be an open and transparent process so that all communities – not just the corporate community – have a seat at the table.  We need a trade policy that puts people and the planet first.”

Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach Director Scott Wright: “For too long the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements has prioritized the interests and voices of corporate interests, at the expense of the poor and vulnerable- those most affected by the actual agreements. Columban missionaries live with and serve those communities around the world and so witness how this lack of participation and prioritization of vulnerable communities negatively impacts their ability to live with dignity and sustainability. Any renegotiation of NAFTA needs to be a transparent and inclusive process that promotes the common good and ensures everyone has a seat at the table.”

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries Policy Advocate for International Relations Reverend Michael Neuroth: “We call on the Trump Administration to ensure that the process be fair and transparent.  Specifically, a new NAFTA agreement should eliminate special corporate ‘investor protections’ and maintain the participation and protection of individuals and communities most impacted by NAFTA.  Like the image in Micah 4:4, we envision a trade system and economic order in which all can ‘sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid.’ That is our vision, to build a ‘Just World for All.’”


The cross-sector Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC) coalition has also re-sent a letter to President Donald Trump, first delivered in January 2017, outlining ten key areas of change needed in any NAFTA replacement deal, and calling for transparency in the negotiating process.  The letter calls on the president to make the following changes:

  • Eliminate rules that incentivize the offshoring of jobs and that empower corporations to attack democratic policies in unaccountable tribunals;
  • Defend jobs and human rights by adding strong, binding and enforceable labor, wage and environmental standards to the agreement’s core text and requiring that they are enforced;
  • Overhaul NAFTA rules that harm family farmers and feed a destructive agribusiness model;
  • End NAFTA rules that threaten the safety of our food;
  • Eliminate NAFTA rules that drive up the cost of medicines;
  • Eliminate NAFTA rules that undermine job-creating programs like Buy American;
  • Add strong, enforceable disciplines against currency manipulation to ensure a fair playing field for job creation;
  • Strengthen “rules of origin” and stop transshipment so as to create jobs and reinforce labor and environmental standards;
  • Require imported goods and services to meet domestic safety and environmental rules; and
  • Add a broad protection for environmental, health, labor and other public interest policies.

According to the letter, “The rubric for assessing a NAFTA renegotiation is clear: Does it put the needs of people and the planet over corporate profits? Does it support — not undermine — good jobs, public health and a more stable climate? If your administration fails to achieve these fundamental goals, or delivers yet another corporate-favoring deal that threatens such priorities, we will oppose it at every step.”