WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 21, 2017) — On Sunday, the opening round of talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement concluded and not much is known about what was discussed, except that they are racing to meet a tight political calendar, and are set to reconvene Sept. 1-5 in Mexico, again later that month in Canada, and in Washington, D.C. in October.
Why don’t we know more? Because, once again, these talks are being held in secret. All we know is that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) recently released objectives for renegotiating the NAFTA that are vague, unambitious and that largely replicate those of the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The labor movement has fought hard for trade policy that works for working folks and now is not the time to let up. Here’s what you can do to help:
Sign the AFL-CIO petition calling for a new NAFTA that prioritizes working people.
Contact the USTR and your member of Congress via the Citizen Trade Campaign and urge them to make the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation transparent and to demand a replacement that will put human needs ahead of corporate profits.
Save the date for a public hearing on NAFTA, workers and immigrants with U.S. Rep. Adam Smith on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at IBEW 77, 19415 International Blvd. in SeaTac. Doors open at 6 p.m. and program begins at 6:30 p.m. RSVP here.
For more information, here is an excellent statement on NAFTA renegotiations by Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director of the Citizens Trade Campaign:
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 formally began last week. 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.
Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC) is a national coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer and faith organizations working together to improve U.S. trade policy.