USTR’s NAFTA Renegotiation “Plan” Is Unacceptable

The Trump administration’s NAFTA renegotiation plan fails to take the bold steps needed to replace NAFTA with a deal that works for working families. Instead, the document relies heavily on language from past, business-as-usual trade policies that have privileged corporate interests ahead of others.

Citizens Trade Campaign has long recognized the damage that NAFTA has done to working families and the environment in the United States, Mexico and Canada. We have fought for NAFTA to be replaced, and like others, we have detailed for the administration specific policy changes needed in order to create good-paying jobs, eliminate environmental threats and otherwise benefit the majority in all three nations.

The administration’s document is quite vague about what will actually be demanded and much if it simply repeats the 2015 Fast Track negotiating objectives that civil society opposed. What is clear is that the document released does not in any way reflect the NAFTA replacement plan that civil society groups have long championed to put people and the planet first.

The administration’s plan is really only specific on one major NAFTA change — eliminating NAFTA’s Chapter 19 anti-dumping case review panels. That makes the vague or down-right concerning language on other issues especially troubling.

The document does not mandate the strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards needed to protect jobs at home and human rights abroad. It doesn’t state that NAFTA’s special investor protections for corporations that make it easier to offshore jobs and to attack our laws will be eliminated. It doesn’t even state that these talks will eliminate NAFTA’s ban on ‘Buy America’ government purchasing preferences.  It also fails to stand up for family farmers, immigrants, consumer safety or access to medicine.

There’s nothing in this plan to suggest a NAFTA replacement deal that will benefit working families at home and abroad ahead of corporate profits.

And given that members of the Trump administration have publicly stated their intention to use the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as the starting point for NAFTA’s renegotiation, this plan’s parroting of previous administrations’ trade negotiating objectives highlights how much harder we’ll need to fight if we’re going to achieve real change.

Between this disappointing document, the President’s repeated failure to deliver on his previous trade promises, and his very real conflicts of interest and potential for self-dealing in NAFTA’s renegotiation, there is a stronger-than-ever need for real transparency in these and other trade negotiations moving forward.

TAKE ACTION:  Please join us in calling for transparent trade negotiations that would provide Congress, the public and the press will full access to U.S. proposals and draft composite texts, and that put working families and healthy communities ahead of corporate profits.  Write to the President and Congress now.

Civil Society Statements on the Administration’s NAFTA Renegotiation Plan

Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers:  “The USTR seems to be backing the same priorities that have guided trade agreements since NAFTA was first negotiated, promoting corporate interests and leaving workers behind. This is not what workers who supported President Trump in the election expected: They assumed that he would renegotiate NAFTA to create better paying jobs for them and their families, rather than chasing higher profits and greater protections for corporate interests.”

James P. Hoffa, General President, Teamsters: “I am disappointed that the latest version of the administration’s goals for a NAFTA replacement is not more specific. The very general outline that the USTR posted on its website suggests that the Trump trade reform team is still undecided about what new trade policy model will replace the old NAFTA and its expansion in other bad deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).”

Robert Martinez, Jr, International President, International Association of Machinists: “Any renegotiation that starts off with the current trade template found in TPP is unacceptable. Labor provisions, rules of origin, special corporate courts that undermine important food safety and environmental protections, and many other provisions in TPP fall far short of the substantive changes that need to be made in order for trade agreements to begin benefiting working families.”

Chris Shelton, President, Communications Workers of America: ““For millions of U.S. working families, trade deals like NAFTA have been a string of one broken promise after another. Members of my union, whether they work in call centers, high tech, or auto part assembly, have been harmed by NAFTA and the bad trade deals our country has negotiated for decades. Working people pay the price for these bad trade deals through lost jobs and lost earnings, devastated communities and a lower standard of living.”

Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club“In a blunt display of hypocrisy, Donald Trump appears to want to copy and paste the weak labor and environmental provisions of the TPP, a deal that Trump claimed to hate. Based on today’s ‘plan,’ one could be forgiven for concluding that Trump’s opposition to the TPP was merely political theater and this administration has no intent of fundamentally changing NAFTA.”

Roger Johnson, President, National Farmers Union: “In many ways the objectives are a missed opportunity for family farmers and ranchers. Though international trade is essential for the financial success of American food producers, free trade agreements such as NAFTA often favor corporate interests over those of working people. Unfortunately, this has led to corporate consolidation in agribusiness, threatening the economic stability of family farmers and ranchers. By neglecting to address the role of free trade in the proliferation of corporate consolidation, the current administration seems content to allow this disturbing and dangerous trend to continue.”

Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “This document does not describe the promised transformation of NAFTA to prioritize working people that some voters were expecting based on President Trump’s campaign pledges.”

Bill Waren, Senior Trade Analyst, Friends of the Earth: “Trump’s statement indicates he plans to step up his war on public health and the planet by modeling NAFTA’s provisions related to environmental regulation on the TPP. These objectives appear to set the stage for a stealth attack on strong regulation of food, agriculture, chemicals, and biotechnology.”

Juliet Majot, Executive Director, Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy: “Bring trade agreements out of secrecy and into the light through transparent, democratic, public processes, including field hearings to draw on the experience and knowledge of farmers and food system workers; and guarantee full transparency, including publication of negotiating texts, reports and supporting documents.”

Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO: “The NAFTA objectives don’t inspire confidence that the Trump administration’s actions will meet its rhetoric on trade. If the administration is serious about renegotiating NAFTA in a way that raises wages and creates good jobs, it cannot continue to promise significant trade policy changes on the one hand, and produce vague, unambitious objectives in its official communications on the other. These objectives largely replicate those of the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership and won’t satisfy the expectations the president created for a revival of America’s manufacturing heartland.”