Will People or Corporations Come First in NAFTA Renegotiations?

In the midst of the President’s reprehensible response to the racism, anti-Semitism and violence in Charlottesville, the business of his administration continues — with the potential for decades-long consequences to the economy, the environment and public health.

The public is being shut out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations that are now formally underway.  Meanwhile, hundreds of corporate lobbyists have been given special “cleared advisor” status that gives them privileged access to proposed texts and to the negotiators themselves.

President Trump got into office in large part on his promise to make NAFTA better for working people, but his administration’s written renegotiation plan fails to take the bold steps needed to accomplish that goal.  Instead, it relies heavily on language from the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) corporate power grab.  If corporations are allowed to dictate the terms of NAFTA’s renegotiation, the pact could become even worse for working people throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada.

To put an end to rigged trade deals that enrich corporate elites at the expense of the majority, we need a transparent negotiating process that allows the public to comment on draft U.S. trade proposals before they’re formally introduced and to review composite texts at the end of each negotiating round.

Any NAFTA replacement deal and future trade agreement must also meet the following basic criteria:

• Eliminate the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, which promotes job offshoring and gives multinational corporations power to sue governments over environmental, health and other public interest protections before a tribunal of three corporate lawyers.  These lawyers can order U.S. taxpayers to pay corporations unlimited sums of money, including for the loss of expected future profits.

• Include strong, binding and enforceable labor and environmental standards, not the ineffective rules found in deals like the TPP.  Require that these standards are enforced before the new pact is finalized.

• Require all imported food, goods and services in the agreement to meet all domestic safety, consumer-right-to-know and environmental rules, and uphold nations’ rights to democratically establish domestic farm policies that ensure that farmers are paid fairly for their crops and livestock and that the public has ongoing access to safe, affordable food.

• End rules that waive Buy American and Buy Local policies by eliminating NAFTA’s procurement chapter.

• Remove terms that drive up the cost of life-saving medicines by giving pharmaceutical companies extended monopolies on drug patents.

While not a comprehensive list of necessary changes to a NAFTA replacement, any agreement that fails to meet these simple standards is unlikely to deserve the support of working people at home or abroad.

And, as we’ve said many times before, any NAFTA replacement deal must work for working families in all three countries.  We know that the NAFTA debate isn’t a question of the United States versus Mexico and Canada, but rather big corporations against the rest of us.

Civil Society Statements on the Launch of NAFTA’s Renegotiation

Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers: “A renegotiated NAFTA that subordinates workers will meet the fate of the now-dead Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. An uprising and uproar from workers, environmentalists, faith organizations, community groups and others killed the TPP before it ever reached Congress. The humans in the United States, Canada and Mexico won’t be tricked or trickled down on again.”

James P. Hoffa, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Francios Laporte, Teamsters Canada: “Simply put, the NAFTA model does not work for workers. Instead, it subordinates their interests to the bottom-line profit motives of multinational corporations, suppresses wages and labor standards, and contributes to rising inequality…  [R]eal reform towards a pro-worker NAFTA replacement model that we can support is achievable only if the negotiation process is open and inclusive. We urge our governments to share the negotiating texts after each round of talks with Parliament, Congress, the labor movement in all three countries, with civil society stakeholders and the public at large.”

Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union: “For decades, farming and rural communities across the country have suffered lost jobs, lowered wages, and fleeting economic liberty as a result of our nation’s free trade agenda. The Trump Administration must use this opportunity to reset that agenda by instituting a new, fair trade framework that works for family farmers, ranchers, and rural residents. NFU urges them to do so in a fashion that is transparent to the American public and does not upset the positive trade relations the U.S. agriculture community relies upon.”

Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: “We need a new approach to trade that promotes local and regional food systems, including providing for mechanisms in all three countries to shelter food crops from volatile markets and dumping. Simplistic calls to expand exports won’t get us to the fair and sustainable food and farm system we need.”

Ben Beachy, Sierra Club: “For all his talk of doing trade differently, Donald Trump seems intent on repeating the closed-door negotiating process that produced NAFTA in the first place. We’ve seen how corporations hijack secret trade negotiations to pad their profits at the expense of good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities. If Trump’s NAFTA 2.0 becomes another backroom deal by and for corporations, vigorous opposition will be predictable and merited.”

Bill Waren, Friends of the Earth: “Trump’s NAFTA renegotiation objectives will be destructive for people and the planet. By holding this week’s NAFTA talks behind closed doors, keeping the negotiating text secret, and shutting out environmentalists and other advocates to brief the negotiators on our policy positions, he is silencing the voices of Americans who want clean air and clean water.”

Chloe Schwabe, Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns: “The world’s apathy toward the suffering caused by NAFTA’s economic failures is a prime example of what Pope Francis has repeatedly referred to as the ‘globalization of indifference.’ Maryknoll missioners serving in Mexico for more than 60 years witnessed the tremendous harm NAFTA caused across Mexico. NAFTA ruined the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and rural economies, and failed to create good jobs with fair wages in other sectors. NAFTA has ultimately contributed to a rise in migration to the United States and greater income inequality.”

Earlier civil society statements on NAFTA renegotiation are online here


TAKE ACTION: Urge the U.S. Trade Representative and Congress to end the rigged trade negotiating process that puts corporations over working families and the planet.