NAFTA: Don’t Make A Bad Deal Worse

Don’t Make a Bad Deal Worse: UE Statement on Renegotiating NAFTA

UE General Executive Board

 

Three years ago, on the 20th anniversary of NAFTA’s passage, North American labor, environmental groups, human rights organizations, and other citizen watchdogs—united to call out the terrible impact of this trade agreement on working people and our communities. As attention returns to NAFTA, now that President Trump has notified Congress officially of his intention to renegotiate, we caution against any belief that his administration will seek a deal benefitting people and the planet. NAFTA benefits corporations and those who have an interest in the free flow of capital, rather than improving the lives of workers, our communities, or the environment. Past attempts to appease concerns from labor and environmentalists have not been meaningful. .

We see the consequences of this failed treaty vividly: Across the continent, workers and families have been hit hard, as evidenced by persistent unemployment, wage stagnation, and record wealth and income inequality. There continues to be a decline in good-paying, union manufacturing jobs, as well as a loss of high-paying jobs in smaller businesses.  In those pockets where manufacturing has expanded, the jobs created have been mostly low wage with little attention to worker health and safety. In Mexico, the jobs that have emerged have been at such low rates of pay that poverty rates have risen—not fallen—since 1994. Mexico has experienced a loss of jobs in agriculture, where heavily-subsidized US corn, sugar, and other commodities led to the collapse of the Mexican farm economy.  Since the implementation of NAFTA, workers in the three countries have suffered, while wealthy investors and big corporations have seen their profits balloon.

 

Communities of North America continue to suffer under NAFTA as corporations continue to exploit our shared environment for profit and pollute our land, air, and water as governments are unable or unwilling to force corporations to clean up hazardous mistakes created by negligence. This is evident from the St. Lawrence River in Québec, which is threatened by fracking from Lone Pine Resources, to the Midwestern plains, where oil leaks from the TransCanada-owned Keystone Pipeline, to the hills of Guadalcázar, where residents pray they have seen the last child born with birth defects from the toxic waste MetalClad has refused to clean up. Corporate profits continue to grow while the health of our communities and environment suffers.

NAFTA enables the unrestricted flow of capital causing misery for working people, including: the forced migration of people looking for jobs; increased rates of homelessness; mental health problems associated with dislocation; higher rates of diabetes and other ailments linked to cheap high fructose corn syrup; and rising violence, particularly against women. NAFTA devastated the Mexican economy, particularly agriculture and family farms by allowing US corporations to dump cheap corn and other staples into Mexico. It is a key reason why millions upon millions of Mexican workers have been forced to migrate north to the US looking for better work.

President Trump says he wants to renegotiate this “bad deal,” but his vague plans are anchored in building a wall for workers and tearing down walls for capital. He makes a xenophobic argument for renegotiation, and we reject its racist and nationalistic orientation. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue have stated that the rejected and discredited Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be the starting point for a renegotiated NAFTA. Unionists and environmentalists rejected TPP for good reasons and to have that as the administration’s starting point is very troubling.

The Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism in NAFTA infringes on sovereignty and citizens’ rights to self-governance by allowing corporations to sue governments who restrain profit-making opportunities. This would have been made more powerful under TPP. TPP would have weakened US health and safety standards, including those that ensure safe pharmaceuticals and food. TPP attacked net neutrality and a free and open Internet. NAFTA was negotiated in the early 1990’s and the internet was not included in the original NAFTA. We expect this to be a major target of the administration’s renegotiation.

We reject the corporate-led vision for a renegotiation of NAFTA and call for a new set of trade policies that prioritize workers common interests and relies on international solidarity as its cornerstone. Any renegotiation of NAFTA must be oriented around the improvement of workers’ lives and protection of the environment focused on those regions of the continent where conditions are the most desperate.

We call for the end of the ISDS protections NAFTA offers to  corporations to exploit working people and the environment.  As we said three years ago, 20 years after the passage of NAFTA, any new treaty must “strengthen governments’ ability to protect social, environmental and labor rights, particularly for migrants.”

We demand, as required by the UN International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions 87 and 98, an end to laws that allow employers to prevent workers from choosing their own unions or from exercising their rights to assemble, organize, and represent workers without any employer interference. This includes an end to attacks in the U.S against unions seeking to negotiate union security clauses with employers.

We demand government investment to create good-paying jobs in our communities, to build affordable housing, accessible public transportation, and green energy production, with quality food, education, and healthcare for all, and with improved access to clean air and water, public parks, and green recreation spaces. All trade negotiations must be opened to civil society participation, which includes prior publication of the texts and the construction of mechanisms for information sharing, social participation and deliberation, while avoiding the imposition of any “fast track”. A renegotiated NAFTA treaty must include effective mechanisms to protect human, labor, and environmental rights with meaningful sanctions and enforcement provisions to assure the supremacy of human rights over corporate privilege.

We support the “Political Declaration of the Encounter of the Social Organizations of Canada, United States, and Mexico” which came out of meetings held in Mexico City on May 26 and 27, 2017. We unite in international solidarity with these goals in mind and are prepared to fight back against any and all attempts to divide or devalue our work, our communities, and our environment.

Reposted from our friends at Portside.

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6 Ways We Could Improve NAFTA for Working People

 by Jackie Tortora

6 Ways We Could Improve NAFTA for Working People

For years we’ve talked about the shortcomings of the North American Free Trade Agreement (we even released this detailed report on its 20th anniversary) and how trade deals created behind closed doors with corporate CEOs harm working people.

Today we released a blueprint for how to rewrite NAFTA to benefit working families. This past election there was much-needed discussion on the impact of corporate trade deals on our manufacturing sector and on working-class communities. The outline below puts forward real solutions that should garner bipartisan support if lawmakers are truly serious about realigning our trade policies to help workers.

We need a different direction on trade. This movement has been largely driven by working people. As we approach the inauguration of a new president, it is important that everyday working people’s perspectives lead the debate, starting with how to rewrite NAFTA.

 The AFL-CIO has long supported rewriting the rules of NAFTA to provide more equitable outcomes for working families. To date, the biggest beneficiaries of NAFTA have been multinational corporations, which have gained by destroying middle-class jobs in the U.S. and Canada and replacing them with exploitative, sweatshop jobs in Mexico. It doesn’t have to be this way. With different rules, NAFTA could become a tool to raise wages and working conditions in all three North American countries, rather than to lower them.

Key Areas for Improvement

1. Eliminate the private justice system for foreign investors.

NAFTA established a private justice system for foreign investors, thereby prioritizing corporate rights over citizens’ rights, giving corporations even more influence over our economy than they already have. This private justice system, known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, allows foreign investors to challenge local, state and federal laws before private panels of corporate lawyers. Although these lawyers are not accountable to the public, they are empowered to decide cases and award vast sums of taxpayer money to foreign businesses. Under NAFTA, these panels have awarded millions of dollars to corporations when local and state governments exercise their jurisdictional power to deny things such as municipal building permits for toxic waste processing facilities. ISDS gives foreign investors enormous leverage to sway public policies in their favor. Scrapping the entire system would help level the playing field for small domestic producers and their employees.

2. Strengthen the labor and environment obligations (the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation), include them in the agreement, and ensure they are enforced.

The NAFTA labor and environment side agreements were not designed to effectively raise standards for workers or to ensure clean air and water. Instead, they were hastily patched together to quiet NAFTA’s critics. These agreements should be scrapped and replaced with provisions that effectively and robustly protect international labor and environmental standards. Violators should be subject to trade sanctions when necessary—so that we stop the race to the bottom that has resulted from NAFTA. Without stronger provisions, environmental abuses and worker exploitation will continue unchecked.

3. Address currency manipulation by creating binding rules subject to enforcement and possible sanctions.

Within months after NAFTA’s approval by Congress, Mexico devalued the peso, wiping out overnight potential gains from NAFTA’s tariff reductions. This devaluation made imports from Mexico far cheaper than they otherwise would have been and priced many U.S. exports out of reach for average Mexican consumers. Countries should not use currency policies to gain trade advantages—something China, Japan and others have done for many years. All U.S. trade agreements, including NAFTA, should be upgraded to create binding rules, subject to trade sanctions, to prevent such game playing.

4. Upgrade NAFTA’s rules of origin, particularly on autos and auto parts, to reinforce auto sector jobs in North America.

NAFTA’s rules require that automobiles be 62.5% “made in North America” to qualify for duty-free treatment under NAFTA. Even though 62.5% seems high compared with the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s inadequate 45%, it still allows for nearly 40% of a car to be made in China, Thailand or elsewhere. The auto rule of origin should be upgraded to eliminate loopholes (through products “deemed originating” in North America) and to provide additional incentives to produce in North America. This, combined with improved labor standards, will contribute to a more robust labor market and help North American workers gain from trade.

5. Delete the procurement chapter that undermines “Buy American” laws (Chapter 10).

NAFTA contains provisions that require the U.S. government to treat Canadian and Mexican goods and services as “American” for many purchasing decisions, including purchases by the departments of Commerce, Defense, Education, Veterans Affairs and Transportation. This means that efforts to create jobs for America’s working families by investing in infrastructure or other projects, including after the financial crisis of 2008, could be ineffective. This entire chapter should be deleted.

6. Upgrade the trade enforcement chapter (Chapter 19).

NAFTA allows for a final review of a domestic anti-dumping or countervailing duty case by a binational panel instead of by a competent domestic court. This rule, omitted from subsequent trade deals, has hampered trade enforcement, hurting U.S. firms and their employees. It should be improved or omitted.

Reposted from the AFL-CIO News blog

Union Members need to understand Fast Track

Map of Free Trade Agreements of Mexico. Green ...

Map of Free Trade Agreements of Mexico. Green is Mexico. Red are the other countries of the NAFTA. Blue are countries which have a FTA with Mexico. Orange are countries that want to have a FTA with Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fast Track legislation allowed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to be rammed through Congress with weak labor and environmental side deals. Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, North American workers have experienced downward pressure on wages and a tougher organizing environment. Twenty years later, we find an unbalanced system in which profits soar even as workers take home a diminishing share of the national income.

More recent trade deals, like the World Trade Organization trade deal, had no labor or environmental standards at all. And other Fast Track trade deals have included Colombia, a country in which nearly 3,000 labor leaders and activists have been killed since 1986, and Korea—a country with which our trade deficit is already rising, and which, under the very low standards of the deal, can receive tariff benefits for cars that contain only 35% Korean content.

To really have trade deals with high standards, the American public must have more say—and that means no Fast Track authority from Congress. Continue reading

Before the Zombie Apocalypse –These 4 Trade Deals Were Ravaging the World!

by James Trimarco

Cartoons by Marc J. Palm

Forget ghouls and goblins. From deregulating Wall Street to shredding environmental and labor protections—these policy monsters are way scarier.
This time of year, the fabric that separates our world from prowling ghouls is at its thinnest. But what really keeps us at YES! Magazine up at night are the international trade agreements constantly being negotiated by the United States and its partners—each one more terrifying than the last.

These deals have a way of favoring corporations over people.
How can something as pleasant-sounding as “free trade” be more threatening than a zombie apocalypse? The devil’s in the details, and the fine print on some of these agreements is enough to curdle a bucket of blood.
Whether it’s blocking a ban on chocolate-flavored cigarettes marketed to kids, or rolling back post-2008 regulations on Wall Street, these deals have a way of favoring corporations over people. They’re not popular, as you might imagine, and in some cases people’s movements have been able to stop them in their tracks. In response, proponents of the deals have attempted to slip under the radar by conducting negotiations in secret.
Here are four of the scariest deals—and why they’re so abominable.

WTO-The-mother-of-all-trade

The World Trade Organization, created in 1995 as a re-imagining of an earlier group called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, is the mother of all trade bodies and sets the rules for the flow of goods and services between countries. The WTO claims its goal is to “improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries.” But critics say what it really does is force poor nations to open their markets to wealthier ones, who themselves often bend the WTO’s rules.
The WTO also gives companies a place to complain about regulations enacted by democratically elected governments. It has found fault with laws protecting public health, the environment, workers’ rights, and other things that would affect industries’ bottom line. Recent rulings have objected to producers labeling certain kinds of tuna as “dolphin safe;” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ban on sweet-flavored cigarettes that entice kids; and labels that inform consumers what country meat products originated in. The WTO says such labels violate the rights of Mexican and Canadian farmers to a level playing field. The United States sometimes refuses to comply—but risks trade sanctions when it does so.
Perhaps most frightening of all, the WTO (along with NAFTA) has spawned a whole new brood of bilateral and regional deals that take the same approach to trade and development.

TTIP-The-Warlock-that-would

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, if approved, would promote trade between the United States and the European Union.
The deal has some bright spots—for example, it would universalize the plugs for electric cars. But American negotiators are also pushing hard to overturn Europe’s ban on imports of U.S.-grown genetically modified crops. Meanwhile, European negotiators and bankers are trying to set Wall Street free from regulations passed after the financial crisis of 2008. According to the nonprofit research group Public Citizen, they want to roll back the Volcker Rule, which restricts U.S. banks from the riskiest investments, and to block efforts to limit the size of banks.

NAFTA-corportate-werewolf-2

When President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in 1993, he sold it to the people of the United States as a job creator. “NAFTA means jobs,” he said. “American jobs, and good-paying American jobs.”
More than 20 years later, the agreement’s dark side is showing. The U.S. government’s own Trade Adjustment Assistance program acknowledges that nearly 900,000 workers in the United States have officially lost their jobs due to the relocation of businesses to Canada or Mexico under NAFTA. Meanwhile, exports of cheap U.S. corn have damaged the livelihoods of Mexican farmers and driven huge waves of migration. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Mexican-born people living in the United States more than doubled from 4.5 million to 9.8 million.

TPP-The-Kraken

The Trans Pacific Partnership, if approved, would unite 12 Pacific Rim countries into the world’s largest free trade area, comprising 40 percent of the global economy. When he spoke about the TPP in 2011, President Barack Obama, who has made the deal’s passage a major objective of his administration, sounded a lot like Clinton in 1993. Obama said the deal “will boost our economies, lowering barriers to trade and investment, increasing exports, and creating more jobs for our people.”
But leaked sections of the agreement’s secret text show the TPP taking more controversial stances—and it has its tentacles on a breathtaking variety of issues. On health care, U.S. negotiators seem to be working at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, trying to extend the rights of patent-holders to charge more money for medicines. On labor, the TPP makes it easier for companies to move manufacturing to low-wage Vietnam, but offers no enforceable provisions to prevent abuse. On the environment, it preserves the status quo, doing little to prevent the illegal logging and overfishing that are taxing the forests and oceans of the region.
Last but not least, advocates of a free Internet are up in arms over sections in the TPP’s intellectual property chapter they say would significantly diminish the free speech rights of web users.
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James Trimarco wrote this article and Marc Palm created the comics for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. James is a web editor at YES! and you can follow him at @JamesTrimarco. Marc is an un-schooled artist who has been self-publishing comics and graphically designing since the mid-90’s. Find more of his work at marcpalm.carbonmade.com.

This article is reprinted from YES Magazine under a license from Creative Commons.

Linking Trade, Work, and Migration

Globalization and NAFTA Caused Migration from Mexico

By David Bacon, Political Research Associates

Immigrant Oaxacan Farm Worker and Weaver, and her Family

Rufino Domínguez, the former coordinator of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations, who now heads the Oaxacan Institute for Attention to Migrants, estimates that there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the U.S., 300,000 in California alone.1 [1]

In Oaxaca, some towns have become depopulated, or are now made up of only communities of the very old and very young, where most working-age people have left to work in the north. Economic crises provoked by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other economic reforms are now uprooting and displacing these Mexicans in the country’s most remote areas, where people still speak languages (such as Mixteco, Zapoteco and Triqui) that were old [2] when Columbus arrived from Spain.2 [3] “There are no jobs, and NAFTA forced the price of corn so low that it’s not economically possible to plant a crop anymore,” Dominguez says. “We come to the U.S. to work because we can’t get a price for our product at home. There’s no alternative.” Continue reading

Real people pushed out of TPP talks

by Dave Anderson

Sen Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Jared Polis

Sen Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Jared Polis

Who are you going to believe — Senator Elizabeth Warren or Congressman Jared Polis?

At Public Citizen’s annual gala in May, Warren launched an attack on backroom trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated: “From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill,” Warren said. “I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.’ /

“Think about that. Real people, people whose jobs are at stake, small-business owners who don’t want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day — those people, people without an army of lobbyists — they would be opposed. I believe if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then maybe that trade agreement should not happen.”

By contrast, Congressman Polis has straddled the fence on both fast track authority and the TPP. He is “troubled by the lack of transparency in the U.S. TPP negotiations” and says he won’t support a deal which undermines protections for the environment, consumers and workers.

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Moral Authority in Globalization

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

I took part in a “fair trade” study session at a synagogue recently, looking at moral authority in the global economy. We considered four historical examples.

In Exodus, Moses leads the children of Israel out of Egypt, creating a new nation in the midst of established tribes and nations. After finding food and water, Moses gets excellent advice from his father in-law, Jethro: Appoint judges.

“… thou shalt provide, out of all the people, able men such as fear God, men of truth, hating unjust gain, and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all seasons.”

This judicial system was a foundational institution of civil society, giving legitimacy and credibility to Moses’ leadership. The Old Testament served as a moral, social and civil document. It determined how life would be organized for many generations.

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Shafted by NAFTA

by Gregory N. Heires

tppThe scorecard is in 20 years after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement: Corporations won and workers lost.

“NAFTA has done what it was intended to do, which is to lower wages,” Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., said in an interview.

The free trade pact led to hundreds of thousands of lost jobs, displaced millions of farmers in Mexico, turned the U.S. trade surplus with Mexico into a deficit and gave multinational corporations new powers over governments, he said.

NAFTA at 20,” a report by Public Citizen, offers a blistering assessment of the trade pact between the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA’s record is a warning as the United States considers similar trade agreements with Asian and Latin American countries. Continue reading

Lessons from 20 Years of NAFTA: Replace Failed Model with Good Trade Policy

by Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

The NAFTA model has failed.

When NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) took effect 20 years ago, we were promised mutual gain.

To be clear, everyone I know wants good trade policies that raise living standards at home and abroad. The question is not trade versus protectionism. It’s good trade policy versus bad trade policy.

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The Right To Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration

BaconA review by Duane Campbell

The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration by David Bacon  is a well written, well informed book that explains political and economic currents shaping the US immigration experience.

The U.S. public is  engaged  in a sustained and divisive debate over immigration. Unfortunately, at the same  time ,  most U.S. do not recognize that U.S. economic policy,  particularly NAFTA created many of  the conditions that produce the very immigration of some 8 million people  that many on the Right and the Tea Party   so oppose.

The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 accelerated a neo-liberal form of economic growth in Mexico that drove poor farmers, particularly in the indigenous south to lose their farms and their livelihood.  In  response  young men, and increasingly the young women,  made the dangerous trek to the U.S. in search of work and an income to feed their families and keep their families from losing their  farms.    Continue reading