Trump’s NAFTA Proposal Doesn’t Cut It

The Trump administration’s proposed text for a revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) fails to include the critical changes necessary to protect jobs, raise wages, defend human rights and reverse environmental damage.

Substantial additional changes are needed if the pact is going to provide real benefits to the majority of people other than corporate elites.

Thankfully, the current proposal has not been agreed to by the U.S. Congress, and will likely be the starting point for continued negotiations moving forward.

Each week, NAFTA continues to destroy livelihoods across the continent. Unfortunately, the deal on offer does not include the enforcement mechanisms for labor and environmental standards needed to prevent employers from moving jobs abroad to areas where worker rights and environmental protection are routinely ignored.

As the Labor Advisory Committee on Trade Negotiations and Trade Policy wrote in its report on the proposal, “We have learned through 25 years of experience that it is simply too easy for trading partners and firms that outsource to violate labor obligations and for U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, to do nothing. Some have asked us, ‘Isn’t it better to have labor rules that aren’t enforced than no rules at all?’ Our unequivocal answer is, ‘No.’ A worker who is fired for exercising the freedom to join a union is just as jobless, whether the firing was in violation of a trade obligation or not. His or her former co-workers are just as intimidated, and wages are just as suppressed.”

Without strong labor and environmental rules with swift and certain enforcement, Trump’s version of NAFTA will continue to facilitate the outsourcing of jobs, the suppression of wages and the dumping of toxins. While steps forward have been made in other areas, a NAFTA replacement without this fundamental fix is a nonstarter.

In addition, Trump’s proposal is significantly worse than the original NAFTA on access to medicines. The world needs trade policies that increase the affordability of life-saving medications — not ones that extend monopolies for pharmaceutical giants and raise healthcare costs.

Beyond failing to even mention climate change, the current proposal also seeks to maintain special rights for some of the planet’s most egregious corporate polluters. If allowed to move forward as written, these handouts to oil and gas companies would prolong NAFTA’s ongoing threats to our air, water and climate.

As much as the White House wants to spin this as a win, a lot more work is needed before there’s a NAFTA replacement deal that working families can be happy about. All parties involved should continue working towards a trilateral agreement that actually benefits working people and the planet.

TAKE ACTION: Please urge your Members of Congress to insist on a comprehensive NAFTA replacement that puts working people and the planet ahead of corporate profits.

ANALYSISRead how the just-released texts compare with the NAFTA replacement demands of over 1,000 civil society organizations.

More-detailed analyses are available from the Labor Advisory CommitteeGlobal Trade Watch and the Sierra Club.  Here’s what others are saying…

Organized Labor

Leo W. Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers:  “The effort to achieve the goal of a fair trade agreement that protects workers in the United States, Canada and Mexico is far from over.”
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Jim Hoffa, General President, Teamsters: “The new Labor Chapter and the annex with Mexico contain obligations and protections that are superior to the original NAFTA… However, until we are satisfied that those obligations will be subject to swift and sure enforcement, we cannot endorse this renegotiation.”
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Robert Martinez, Jr., International President, Machinists Union: “While current language includes some welcome improvements, it also retains some of the most serious flaws of the proposed TPP, including provisions that limit the types of labor violations that would be covered by the agreement. We will be reviewing language concerning standards and enforcement once they are finalized.”
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Communications Workers of America: “Unfortunately, nothing is included in the deal to advance the provisions of CWA’s call center bill, despite CWA President Chris Shelton asking the Administration multiple times to take action to stop the outsourcing and offshoring of call center jobs.  While the new agreement contains improvements in certain areas, significant changes are still needed to make this a good deal that benefits workers and stops the race to the bottom.”
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Celeste Drake, Trade Policy Specialist, AFL-CIO: “The many unanswered questions include whether, when and how Mexico will enact and implement labor law reform; whether, when and how labor monitoring and enforcement tools will be included in the agreement and any associated legislation; what the final auto rule of origin looks like; and whether Buy American will be strengthened or weakened.”
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Environmental Groups
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Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club:  “Trump’s version of NAFTA would encourage further outsourcing of pollution and jobs, offer special handouts to corporate polluters like Chevron and ExxonMobil, and cement Trump’s polluting legacy for years after he has left office. The proposal not only fails to mention climate change – it would prolong NAFTA’s contribution to the climate crisis.”
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Doug Norlen, Director of Economic Policy, Friends of the Earth U.S.:  “Trump’s trade agreement with Mexico and Canada is a corporate giveaway intended to sharply limit the powers of government to protect people and the planet.”
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Consumer Organizations
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Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “The new deal includes some important improvements for which we have long advocated, some new terms we oppose and more work required to stop NAFTA’s ongoing job outsourcing, downward pressure on our wages and environmental damage.”
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Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Watch: “The text reveals provisions that undermine U.S. food safety protections, including aggressive ‘sound science’ language designed to make it harder to defend or implement food safety safeguards…. The deal even creates new ways for Canada and Mexico to second-guess U.S. border inspectors that halt suspicious food shipments, which would have a dangerously chilling effect on food safety enforcement.”
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Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Division: “The rules go significantly beyond the original NAFTA text in their government-sponsored patent and exclusivity protections for corporate monopoly control over needed medicines.  Their purpose is to better insulate expensive new medicines from generic competition; helping pharmaceutical corporations keep the prices of at least some new medicines higher for longer.”
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Farm & Food Advocates
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Jim Goodman, President, National Family Farm Coalition: “President Trump touts USMCA as a big win for US farmers, but it is a huge loss for dairy farmers on both sides of the border.”
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Juliette Majot, Executive Director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: “The reworked NAFTA agreement entrenches agribusiness control over supply chains, seeks to streamline approval and trade of controversial agricultural biotechnology products, fails to protect consumers’ right to know what’s in their food and where it is produced, and worsens the devastating impacts of climate change.”
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Marc Perrone, President, United Food and Commercial Workers: “A trade agreement without COOL is terrible for sustainable jobs and food safety.  Every hard-working family deserves to know where their food comes from.  Keeping this information hidden endangers our health and destroys middle class meat processing jobs across our country.”
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Bill Bullard, CEO, R-CALF USA: “We are deeply disappointed that the Trump Administration, like previous Administrations, has folded under the pressure of the multinational meatpackers and their allies who successfully sought to make no changes to NAFTA that would help the largest segment of American agriculture – the U.S. cattle industry – overcome the abusive market power of foreign and domestic multinational meatpackers who will continue to leverage-down the price and value of U.S. cattle under the new agreement.”

 

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