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 with enough public demand, 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.

Any final NAFTA deal must fully eliminate giveaways that help corporations interfere with labor, environmental, food safety and public health protections.  Consumers’ right to know about where and how their food is produced must also be protected.

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, the Sierra Club and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Here’s what others are saying…

Organized Labor

Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO: “Without major improvements, this supposed overhaul will prove to be nothing more than a rebranded corporate handout. Any progress made by this deal is meaningless without swift and certain enforcement tools to safeguard key labor protections.”

Robert Martinez, Jr., International President, Machinists Union: “The labor chapter as currently proposed does not come close to meeting the dramatic changes we believe are needed to end wage suppression in Mexico. Nor is there adequate language in the text to ensure that whatever standards agreed upon will be effectively enforced.”

Leo W. Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers: “We will continue to work with the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Labor and Congress to promote manufacturing and family-supportive jobs. Only when all the issues have been resolved and it’s clear that Mexico is fully and faithfully recognizing workers’ rights, should Congress vote on the agreement and implementing legislation.”

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers: “NAFTA 2.0 lacks serious language to enforce labor protections and has the potential to leave out public sector workers entirely. It keeps the door open for corporations to continue sending jobs to Mexico, where, too often, wages are cruelly low and workplace safety is tragically neglected. It doesn’t do enough to protect LGBT workers and takes a step backwards on improving access to affordable medicines.”

Gary Jones, President, United Auto Workers: “We were hopeful that this new agreement would rein in the corporate greed that has bled manufacturing in the United States. Unfortunately, as GM’s idling of plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland this week showed — the ‘New’ NAFTA, as it stands now, is not strong enough to protect American workers.”

Environmental and Consumer Groups

Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “As is, the agreement falls short of the changes needed to stop NAFTA’s ongoing job outsourcing, downward pressure on our wages and attacks on environmental safeguards, but there is a path to improving it so a final NAFTA package could win wide support.”

Ben Beachy, Living Economy Program Director, Sierra Club: “Trump’s NAFTA deal would cement his polluting legacy for years after he leaves office. It would contribute to the climate crisis, offer even more special handouts for corporate polluters like Chevron and ExxonMobil, and perpetuate NAFTA’s legacy of helping corporations dump toxic pollution across borders.”

Family Farm Advocates

Jim Goodman, President, National Family Farm Coalition: “This latest version of NAFTA, like previous trade deals, not only allows, but protects, the threats that corporate power poses to governments and people… Public health and safety, the viability of rural communities and environmental protection will be nothing more than afterthoughts under the New NAFTA.”

Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director of Trade and Global Governance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy: “This New NAFTA is a huge missed opportunity. Family farm groups in all three countries insisted on new rules to rebuild rural economies and food systems. Instead, we have a deal that locks in many of the old rules that have drive farmers out of agriculture for more than two decades.”

Faith Organizations

Sandy Sorenson, Director of the Washington Office, United Church of Christ: “It is critical that environmental standards are raise, and the loophole that preserves ISDS for nine U.S. oil and gas companies be eliminated. Additionally, the move…to 10 years of market exclusivity for medicines is unacceptable. This provision will keep life-saving medicine further out of the hands of those who desperately need them, a clear violation of our faith values and moral call to help those in need.”

Susan Gunn, Interim Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns: “Rather than fixing provisions that have hurt small farmers throughout North America, the new NAFTA will further erode efforts in Canada and Mexico to support the livelihoods and sovereignty of family farmers while doing little to nothing to improve the lot of family farmers in the United States. Once again, it is corporate agribusinesses that will reap the benefits — not farmers.”

Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK: “We must reject a model that puts the wealthy and big corporations in control. We’ll continue to work to ensure that a final deal going to Congress next year will stop NAFTA’s ongoing damage to workers and the environment.”

See earlier reactions when the NAFTA. 20 text was initially released on September 30, 2018.