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Trump Re-Opens NAFTA, Activists Fear It Is The TPP In Disguise

Like a steady drumbeat, candidate for President, Donald Trump, said he would “renegotiate NAFTA,” the North American Free Trade Agreement that has cost millions of American jobs.   As talks begin this week to make changes to NAFTA some fear that this “new NAFTA” will just be another “grab bag of corporate handouts.”

“NAFTA was a radical experiment,” said Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “NAFTA subsidized offshoring, making it easier for corporations to move American jobs overseas.”

Working people across the country blamed NAFTA for destroying our manufacturing base. “910,000 jobs have been lost due to NAFTA and we have seen our trade surplus with Canada and Mexico shift to a trade deficit,” Wallach added.

“NAFTA went far beyond what we think of as trade,” said Ben Beachy of the Sierra Club. “NAFTA is a grab bag of corporate handouts.”

Beachy explained how this new NAFTA negotiations are being conducted in the same way the Trans-Pacific Partnership was conducted, in complete secret by corporations. There are no representatives for labor or the environment allowed to be a part of the negotiations.

The Sierra Club has been fighting the harmful pollution policies laid out in NAFTA. Due to weak environmental protections in Mexico, NAFTA allowed corporations to export their hazardous waste. The number of toxic waste facilities in Mexico, owned by foreign corporations, grew by over 40% in the last 25 years.

“Underweight babies are being born with elevated levels of lead in their blood because of led battery exports,” said Beachy.

The Sierra Club also opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s poor environmental protections and fears that Trump’s new NAFTA will fail to raise environmental protections.

When a country does try to fight back against these corporations they take their case to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). The ISDS has been incorporated into more than 3,000 trade agreements worldwide 50 of which the United States is included in.

The ISDS is a corporate court, where three corporate lawyers decide the outcome of the dispute. Murshed Zaheed, the Executive Director of Credo Mobile said, “The ISDS puts corporations over people.”

If the corporation wins their case in the ISDS, the taxpayers of the State (i.e. the country being challenged) are forced to pay for the “damages.” The United States alone has already paid out over $400 million in ISDS disputes.

“The ISDS circumvents American sovereignty,” said Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN). He explained who Phillip Reynolds won their ISDS dispute with the country of Uruguay over the labeling of their cigarettes. Uruguay wanted to put a warning label on all cigarette packages, however they were shut down by the ISDS.

(Watch this video from Credo Mobile featuring Senator Elizabeth Warren, explain how the ISDS works in her opposition to the TPP.)

 

The prior history of NAFTA is well known. It crushed our manufacturing and cost millions of people their jobs. But every story has two sides.

Erika Andiola, an immigration activist and a director in Our Revolution, talked about how NAFTA “decimated the Mexican economy” which forced a massive Mexican migration

“Local farmers lost their farms due to the influx of cheap American corn,” Andiola said. After they lost their farms, these farmers were forced to move into the cities to find work. “The economy shifted as local shops and markets were replaced with Wal-Mart and Costco.”

Ultimately, when they could not find work in Mexico, some headed north to the United States in search of work.

Andiola added, “We must talk to our members of Congress to ensure that NAFTA will help American workers but raise the living standards for the workers in ALL countries.“

Yesterday, the Trump administration began the first round on negotiation on NAFTA. Beachy said, “Trump wants to begin by copying the Labor and Environmental protections from the TPP into the new NAFTA.”

We beat the Trans-Pacific Partnership and if we use our collective voices we can make our demands for a better NAFTA heard.

“As renegotiations begin today, there is an incredible opportunity to replace this fundamentally flawed trade deal with new rules that work for working families,” said AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka in a statement. “But how we do it matters. The administration can choose to use this opportunity to benefit working families, or it can further rig the rules to favor corporations and CEOs.”

Rep Ellison said “we must demand”:

  • No ISDS
  • Labor standards are lifted instead of dropped.
  • Environmental standards are lifted instead of dropped.
  • Food standards are lifted instead of dropped.

“We are setting the bar high. We will only accept a deal that is renegotiated the right way. That means having a transparent process in which working families have a seat at the table, and ensuring that our freedom to stand together is protected and that all of us can receive a fair return on our hard work. We need to replace benefits for the few with a fair deal that raises wages, stops outsourcing and provides a path to the middle class, no matter where working families live or what their background is. America’s working people have earned this. We deserve nothing less,” Trumka concluded.


This story compiled from speeches by Rep Keith Ellison, Lori Wallach, Murshed Zaheed, Ben Beachy, and Erika Andiola at Netroots Nation 2017.

Full video of panel here or below.

Leo W Gerard: Workers Need Better Trade Deals, Not More Talk

President Donald Trump, author of “The Art of the Deal,” said this week that China is giving American workers and companies a crummy one. He promised to do something about it.

This occurred within days of his Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, demanding “fair, free and reciprocal” trade in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

At the same time, Congressional Democrats offered a seven-point plan to give workers what they called “A Better Deal on Trade and Jobs.”

American workers want all of these proposals achieved. They’ve heard this stuff before and supported it then.  That includes ending tax breaks for corporations that offshore jobs – something that never happened. It includes the promise to confront China over its steel and aluminum overcapacity – a pledge followed by delay. Talk is cheap. Jobs are not. The factory anchoring a community’s tax base is not. America’s industrial strength in times of uncertainty is not. All the talk is useless unless workers get some action.

President Trump is expected to announce within days the launch of an investigation into China forcing American corporations to transfer technology to the Asian giant’s companies as a price of doing business there. The technology transfer boosts China’s goal of becoming the leading manufacturer within a decade in high-tech areas such as semiconductors, robots, and artificial intelligence. In addition to seizing American research and know-how, Beijing advantages its technology companies by granting them government cash.

This is the kind of unfair competition that Secretary Ross talks about in his Wall Street Journal op-ed.Under so-called free trade rules, governments aren’t supposed to subsidize industry or demand that foreign investors fork over research.

These kinds of violations, not just with China but with other trading partners as well, have occurred for decades now. And the upshot for American workers is lost jobs and stagnant wages.

More than 5 million American manufacturing jobs disappeared between 1997 and 2014. Most of these vanished, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), because of growing U.S. trade deficits with countries like Mexico and China that had negotiated trade and investment deals with the United States.

The United States’ massive trade deficit with China alone accounted for 3.4 million jobs lost between 2001 and 2015, with 2.6 million of those in manufacturing, according to EPI research.

While offshoring manufacturing has often padded corporate profits, it has suppressed wages in the United States and in trading partner countries like Mexico. United Technologies (UT) is a good example.

UT moved to Mexico this year its Electronic Controls unit, which manufactures microprocessors for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment. UT did this even though its 700 American workers had produced consistent profits for UT at a factory in Huntington, Ind. UT also moved a big chunk of its profitable Carrier HVAC manufacturing from Indianapolis to Mexico this year. UT’s stock price rose, so the already-rich who have cash to invest, made out.

They did it on the backs of workers in the United States and Mexico, however. The move to Mexico rendered jobless more than 1,000 skilled American workers. Studies show that if they’re lucky enough to land new employment, the pay will be substantially less.

Mexican workers gained the jobs, but the pay they’re getting is little better than before NAFTA. More than half of Mexicans still live below the poverty line, a figure no different than before NAFTA. The New York Times cited this case: “For 10 years, Jorge Augustín Martínez has driven a forklift for Prolec, a joint venture with General Electric that makes transformers. A father of two, he earns about $100 for a six-day workweek.”

Mexican wages have remained stagnant for a decade.

In the United States, wages have been flat for longer – several decades.

This as corporate profits rise, the stock market skyrockets and CEO pay surges limitlessly.

Trade deals worked great for the already-rich, CEOs and corporations. They’ve crushed workers.

So it’s encouraging that both President Trump and the Democrats are talking about solutions.

The president is right. American corporations shouldn’t have to transfer technology to China to operate there. The United States doesn’t require that of Chinese companies manufacturing here. No such demand was made of Foxconn when it agreed to build a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin last week – though it is true that Wisconsin Republicans plan to force the state’s taxpayers to contribute $3 billion toward the plant, nearly a third of the total cost.

And the Democrats are right about every point in their “Better Deal” plan. Workers need an independent trade cop they can turn to for quick results to combat trade violations before they cost Americans jobs. Corporations like UT and Rexnord should be penalized when they offshore and when they seek government contracts. Corporations that restore jobs to the United States should be rewarded.

So do it. And don’t procrastinate like the administration is doing on its investigation of the national security threat posed to the United States by steel and aluminum overproduction in China. The report in that case originally promised for June 30 now has been indefinitely delayed. Each day’s wait means more American workers without jobs as illegally subsidized, grossly underpriced Chinese steel and aluminum floods the international market.

America’s highly skilled, dedicated steel and aluminum workers perform their jobs faithfully every day with the expectation that their government will enforce international trade regulations. They also expect their government to support their right to join together and collectively bargain for better wages and benefits. As right-wingers have eroded workers’ bargaining rights over the past half century, unions have declined, and with them, workers’ ability to secure raises. This is true in Mexico too, where there are virtually no legitimate, worker-run unions.

Timothy A. Wise, a research fellow at Tufts University, put it this way to the New York Times: “Mexico is seeing exactly the same phenomenon as in the United States. Workers have declining bargaining power on both sides of the border.”

To ensure there are no more crummy trade deals, workers must be at the table when these pacts are negotiated. To get better wages, workers in all the countries involved in these deals – from China to Mexico to the United States – must be able to form real, worker-controlled labor organizations to bargain with corporations.

Praise And Concern Over Democrats “Better Deal”

Communication Workers of America: Working People Need Protections for U.S. Call Center Jobs and a “Better Deal”

Today the Democrats released the details of their “Better Deal” that will focus on three goals:

Raise the wages and incomes of American workers and create millions of good-paying jobs: Our plan for A Better Deal starts by creating millions of good-paying, full-time jobs by directly investing in our crumbling infrastructure and prioritizing small business and entrepreneurs, instead of giving tax breaks to special interests. We will aggressively crack down on unfair foreign trade and fight back against corporations that outsource American jobs.  We will fight to ensure a living wage for all Americans and keep our promise to millions of workers who earned a pension, Social Security and Medicare, so seniors can retire with dignity.

Lower the costs of living for families: We will offer A Better Deal that will lower the crippling cost of prescription drugs and the cost of a college or technical education that leads to a good job. We will fight for families struggling with high monthly bills like childcare, credit card fees, and cable bills. We will crack down on monopolies and the concentration of economic power that has led to higher prices for consumers, workers, and small business – and make sure Wall Street never endangers Main Street again.

Build an economy that gives working Americans the tools to succeed in the 21st Century: Americans deserve the chance to get the skills, tools, and knowledge to find a good-paying job or to move up in their career to earn a better living. We will commit to A Better Deal that provides new tax incentives to employers that invest in workforce training and education and make sure the rules of the economy support companies that focus on long-term growth, rather than short-term profits. We will make it a national priority to bring high-speed Internet to every corner of America and offer an apprenticeship to millions of new workers. We will encourage innovation, invest in advanced research and ensure start-ups and small business can compete and prosper.

(Video of Better Jobs announcement at bottom of post)

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO praised today’s announcement.

“We applaud Sen. Chuck Schumer’s leadership and the Senate Democrats for committing to better trade deals and creating the good jobs that working people deserve. Particularly notable in this agenda are the demands for increased public input and transparency in trade negotiations—including the call for town hall meetings across the country—as well as the continued commitment to long-needed action on currency and trade enforcement. This blueprint provides a good start but also must ensure that working people across North America are free to join together to negotiate a fair return on our work. We look forward to working with the Senate to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement’s corporate-driven rules and enact other innovative trade reforms beneficial to working families.”

After the details of the Democratic Party’s “better deal” were released the Communications Workers of America issued a statement highlighting the need to protect call center jobs from offshoring.  

The Democratic Party’s plan for a better deal on trade and jobs outlines real policies to help working families fight back against corporations that want to shift more jobs overseas and cut wages and benefits for working Americans.

For the first time, lawmakers are recognizing the impact of the tens of thousands of U.S. customer service jobs that have disappeared over past years, as corporations ship good call center jobs to Mexico, India, the Philippines and other countries.

CWA has been pressing Congress to stop this flood of jobs overseas. Corporations are boosting their profits and enriching their investors at the expense of working Americans, and communities are devastated when these good service jobs disappear. And as more jobs are sent offshore, more pressure is brought to bear on U.S. workers to accept lower wages and benefits as the price for keeping any job at all.

The Democratic “Better Deal” plan includes crucial legislation introduced by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) that would help restrict call center offshoring and reverse the loss of thousands of good customer service jobs in the U.S.  It also would provide important consumer safeguards.

Overall, the “Better Deal” plan will give working people a long overdue voice in what happens to their jobs and their communities. It ends the tax incentives and other rewards that corporations now get for sending  jobs overseas; encourages companies to bring jobs back to the U.S. with financial incentives; fully restores “Buy America” requirements for all taxpayer-funded projects, and makes improving U.S. wages and good jobs a key objective of our trade policy.

The Better Deal plan would require companies that handle sensitive U.S. consumer data abroad, including call centers, to disclose to customers what country they are physically located in and the level of data protection in that country.

U.S. trade deals should benefit working families, consumers and communities, not just investors and big corporations. The Better Deal plan provides real solutions to do just that.

AFL-CIO Executive Council: Working People Need Real Trade Reform, Not Just Rhetoric

 (Silver Spring, Md., Wednesday, July 26, 2017) – For decades, America’s trade agenda has failed working people. Last year, voters in both parties called for change. In the early days of the Trump administration, actions have been initiated on existing trade policies, from assessing the national security impact of steel and aluminum imports to considering reform of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. Updating our nation’s trade deals is vital, but only if the focus is on how to increase and improve the quality of jobs. Much work lies ahead, and the direction and effectiveness of President Trump’s efforts still is unknown.

No task is more pressing than ensuring the administration’s renegotiation of NAFTA results in new rules that reflect the needs and interests of working families, not global corporations. NAFTA has failed working people in Canada, Mexico and the United States. Since NAFTA’s inception in 1994, corporate profits are up, but wages in all three countries are stagnant. Despite increased productivity, workers are not receiving a fair return on their work. There is more trade between the three NAFTA countries, but that trade is unbalanced, with the United States running consistent deficits with Mexico and Canada. The freedom to negotiate together is under attack in all three countries, diminishing the voices of working people and increasing inequality. As with other policy failures, broken trade deals disproportionately have harmed communities of color.

We can do better. NAFTA is not a failure of trade itself, but the result of trade rules rigged to favor global corporations and the wealthy elites in all three countries. Trade should be a cooperative endeavor that benefits us all. For that to happen, NAFTA must change dramatically.

NAFTA and its inequities can’t be fixed with mere tweaks or by substituting language from the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership. Nor should the United States adopt a strategy that pits the working people of North America against each other. We must end the race to the bottom that hurts working families, as it impoverishes our democracy and starves investment in our public infrastructure. We must replace NAFTA’s vicious cycle with a virtuous one—with a set of rules that promote shared prosperity for workers in all three nations.

We must incorporate the lessons learned from NAFTA’s failures into its new rules. This means NAFTA’s labor provisions must be substantially strengthened to improve protections for all working people, regardless of immigration status. NAFTA’s labor rules must meet international standards. Swift and certain monitoring and enforcement tools must replace the current convoluted, ineffective process. This will require effective labor inspections and explicit protections for workers who migrate, including a ban on recruitment fees, accountability for abusive practices by employers and labor recruiters, transparency regarding wages and terms of employment, and real access to justice and legal assistance. Only when all workers share these protections will we be able to effectively join together to negotiate for a better life.

A new NAFTA, with rules that working people help write, is an opportunity to begin constructing a Global New Deal for working families. The critical elements of a new NAFTA are:

  • A democratized renegotiation process
  • Strong labor rules with swift and certain enforcement that prevent the commodification of workers
  • Elimination of corporate courts
  • Enforceable currency rules
  • Stronger rules of origin
  • Protection for responsible government purchasing and Buy American policies
  • Improved screening for foreign domestic investment
  • Improved trade enforcement as part of a robust manufacturing policy
  • Elimination of obstacles to effective trade enforcement
  • New rules to prevent tax dodging
  • Removal of rules that undermine protections for workers, consumers and the environment
  • Commitments to invest in infrastructure
  • Consumer protections that ensure financial stability
  • Prohibition of unsafe and unfair cross-border transportation services
  • Protection for intellectual property while ensuring the right to affordable medicines
  • Prohibition on global corporations from using NAFTA to capture public services for profit
  • Strong environmental rules with swift and certain enforcement

Working people and our unions are united and will mobilize with the same level of intensity as our campaign to defeat the TPP. We will work to advance a set of positive and forward-looking trade rules through a comprehensive public campaign on the ground, online and over the air. The elements of the campaign will include the follow action points:

  • Educate elected officials, policy makers, opinion leaders and all workers about the causes and effects of NAFTA and other U.S. trade policies, showing there is another way, and that we need to act collectively to achieve a higher standard of living;
  • Report and publicize the impact of NAFTA on the quality of life for North America’s working people, including the effect on jobs, wages and negotiating power;
  • Demand greater democracy, transparency and participation in the NAFTA renegotiation process—and publicize any failure to open up the process;
  • Mobilize our members, community allies and all workers to demand a better NAFTA, with rules centered on working people’s policy choices—not those of the corporate class;
  • Develop and execute joint strategies with labor movements and allies in Mexico and Canada to ensure that meaningful and effective protections for working people and higher standards are at the core of any changes to NAFTA; and
  • Utilize all available strategies, including public and social media, to broaden the base of popular engagement and advance our vision of a worker-centered NAFTA.

Leo W Gerard: “Do No Harm” Still Hurts

Photo of locked gate at closed steel mill by Getty Images.

Promises were made.

And workers believed candidate Donald Trump when he pledged to stop corporations from exporting American factories. Workers cast votes based on Trump swearing he would end the trade cheating that kills American jobs.

This week, though, workers got bad news from Washington, D.C. President Trump proposed virtually eliminating funding for a Labor Department bureau that helps prevent U.S. workers from having to compete with forced and child labor overseas. In addition, the administration issued only vague objectives for renegotiating the job-killing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

When NAFTA has cost at least 900,000 Americans their jobs, vague is unacceptable. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said his first rule in negotiations for a new NAFTA would be to “do no harm.” That’s not good enough. That’s the status quo, and promises were made. The first rule should be to “do substantial good.”

Substantial good would start with clear, firm goals for renegotiating NAFTA. That would include returning those 900,000 jobs to the United States. That would include restoring the jobs the United States continues to lose, like the 350 that disappeared this year when Rexnord closed its Indianapolis ball bearing factory and moved production to Mexico. And like the 632 jobs at Carrier in Indianapolis that will begin vanishing this week when the first layoff notices are issued because the heating and air conditioning manufacturer shifted some production to Mexico.

In Monterrey, where both Rexnord and Carrier moved jobs, the minimum wage is $3.90 a day. Not an hour. It’s $3.90 a day. There is no way for American workers to compete with that. What they were looking for from the NAFTA renegotiation goals is some help.

Instead, they got pabulum. Yes, there’s a whole section on labor, and it says the labor provisions should be in the main document, not in a side agreement. But the fuzzy language doesn’t provide much hope for workers like those who just lost their jobs at Carrier and Rexnord.

It says, for example, that NAFTA countries should have laws regarding minimum wage, hours of work and occupational health and safety. That’s great. But Mexico has a minimum wage. It’s one so low that, as former presidential candidate Ross Perot would say, it sucks American factories right across Rio Grande.

The NAFTA negotiation targets don’t say that the minimum wage should be a living wage or specify how it would be policed to prevent forced and child labor.

Within the U.S. Department of Labor, there’s a section called the Bureau of International Labor Affairs that monitors compliance with labor provisions in international trade agreements and pays for programs to reduce child and forced labor internationally. The intent is to prevent American manufacturing workers earning family-supporting wages from competing with third world children paid with bread and blankets.

The administration has, however, said it wants to gut that program, cutting its funding by 80 percent. In addition to workers, American food and clothing corporations have objected. Nate Herman, a senior vice president for the American Apparel and Footwear Association, told the Washington Post that without the bureau’s efforts, “you’re saying, basically, that it’s okay for forced labor and child labor to run rampant, which undercuts our own labor force.”

Without specific protections in NAFTA and without even the Bureau of International Labor Affairs programs, U.S. workers are subjected to a no-win competition with exploited foreign workers. The Americans end up unemployed, like those at Carrier and Rexnord. The foreign workers continue to be abused.

Promises were made to American workers. They need to be kept. Big league, not halfway.

For example, the solution to Carrier, owned by United Technologies, moving out of Indiana was a half measure.

United Technologies spared about 700 jobs at the Indianapolis Carrier plant only after Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of the state, handed the corporation $7 million. None of the 700 jobs at the other United Technologies plant in Indiana was saved. All of those went to Mexico.

That’s not what Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail. At a rally in Indianapolis last spring, he pledged: “Here’s what’s going to happen. They’re going to call me, and they are going to say, ‘Mr. President, Carrier has decided to stay in Indiana . . . One hundred percent. It’s not like we have an 80 percent chance of keeping them or a 95 percent. 100 percent.”

But then, it was President-elect Trump who called Carrier. And it wasn’t 100 percent. It wasn’t even 80 percent. And, to make matters worse, United Technologies CEO Greg Hayes said that the millions he’d promised to invest in the plant would be spent on automation, further reducing jobs.

This is, according to the Trump administration, Made in America Week. It began at the White House Monday with a showcase of products produced in every American state, from fire trucks to door hinges. But to really revive American manufacturing, the administration must keep its campaign promises. And that means strong language in a renegotiated NAFTA and strong enforcement of other international trade deals and trade laws.

“No harm” is not enough for the administration that promised to cure the injury that international trade inflicted on workers.

With New NAFTA Recommendations, Labor Leaders Outline ‘Bold, Necessary’ Changes to Trade

During a teleconference on Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, joined by USW President Leo Girard and CWA President Christopher Shelton, announced the AFL-CIO’s comprehensive recommendations for reworking NAFTA to benefit working people. Pointing to staggering job losses and flat wage growth, Trumka minced no words in calling current U.S. trade policy “a bipartisan disaster,” with NAFTA being a particularly egregious failure.

Donald Trump has been highly critical of NAFTA in the past, constantly decrying it on the campaign trail and appealing to the millions of working people whose livelihoods have been affected by the deal. “It’s no secret working people voted for Trump,” said Shelton, “largely because of the promises he made [on NAFTA].” Now that he is in office, labor leaders expect him to make good on those promises to rework the deal, or face the consequences.

If [the new deal] further rigs the rules for the wealthiest few, we will fight him,” Trumka warned. “And if he breaks his promise, workers will never forget it.”

In addition to the recommendations outlined by the AFL-CIO, Edward Wytkind, President of Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, released a statement calling for stronger protections for the transportation workforce, including prohibiting bus and truck traffic from Mexico that violates U.S. safety rules and requiring participating nations to make minimum investments in infrastructure.

Our trade agreements should be designed to put money in the pockets of America’s working families, not large, multi-national corporations or foreign governments,” said Wytkind.

However, leaders have made clear that the goal of this new framework is not to pit workers in different countries against each other. When asked whether there was a middle ground for protecting both U.S. and Mexican workers, Trumka answered, “Mexican and Canadian workers are not our enemy. It’s the trade agreements that are our enemy.”

Both Girard and Shelton agreed that trade agreements should not put workers against each other. Girard said in a closing statement,“It’s not one country’s workers against another’s, it’s all workers rising together.”  Shelton advocated for policies that raise wages and encourage collective bargaining specifically in Mexico.

One thing is certain: a few small tweaks will not fix NAFTA. The recommendations put forth by labor leaders are far-reaching, comprehensive and necessary in order to protect working people from further devastation. And labor leaders have made clear that they will not sit quietly if the administration’s changes are insufficient.

This is bigger than trade itself; it’s about the system of democracy,” said Trumka. “We’re gonna fight and fight hard so that workers can have a fair shot.”

Trump Signs Executive Order To Withdraw From TPP, Wants To Renegotiate NAFTA

Today, President Trump signed an Executive Order to withdraw from the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.  As of right now, we are unsure of what the order says as it has yet to be released by the White House.

Senator Bernie Sanders, who made his opposition to the TPP a cornerstone in his campaign for President, was “glad” to see the TPP go down in flames.

“I am glad the Trans-Pacific Partnership is dead and gone. For the last 30 years, we have had a series of trade deals – including the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normal trade relations with China and others – which have cost us millions of decent-paying jobs and caused a ‘race to the bottom’ which has lowered wages for American workers. Now is the time to develop a new trade policy that helps working families, not just multi-national corporations. If President Trump is serious about a new policy to help American workers then I would be delighted to work with him.”

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO called this an “important first step” in building a “fair and just global economy.”

“Last year, a powerful coalition of labor, environmental, consumer, public health and allied groups came together to stop the TPP. Today’s announcement that the US is withdrawing from TPP and seeking a reopening of NAFTA is an important first step toward a trade policy that works for working people. While these are necessary actions, they aren’t enough. They are just the first in a series of necessary policy changes required to build a fair and just global economy. We will continue our relentless campaign to create new trade and economic rules that end special privileges for foreign investors and Big Pharma, protect our planet’s precious natural resources and ensure fair pay, safe conditions and a voice in the workplace for all workers.” 

The Hill is also reporting that President Trump plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and has “dispatched his son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner to Calgary on Tuesday to begin talks with the cabinet of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich was quick to point out on facebook that Trump’s feudal attempt to renegotiate NAFTA is only a distraction from the Republican attacks on working people.

“Trump stirs up symbolic controversies as diversions from what he and the Republicans are really up to.

Take NAFTA for example. He’s gearing up to “renegotiate” it, whatever that means. Expect lots of angry talk on both sides of our southern border.

But NAFTA’s a hill of beans relative Trump’s and the Republican’s pending repeal of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That will directly hurt millions of working Americans. But Trump wants to distract attention.

Same with Obama’s overtime rule, now hung up in the courts, which Trump is going to axe. It have delivered $12 billion of wage gains over the next decade to American workers.

Ditto labor unions. Trump’s Republicans are busily killing off unions with so-called “right-to-work” laws. The result is less bargaining power for workers to get better wages. But Trump doesn’t want to talk about labor unions. He’d rather beat up on Mexico.

And keep a careful watch on Medicare and Social Security, which have been in Paul Ryan’s cross-hairs for years. We don’t even know what Trump and the Republicans are planning for them, but whatever it is, average working people will take the brunt.”

So the question now becomes will withdrawing and renegotiating the TPP and possibly renegotiating NAFTA really help working people or will it be another chance for Trump and his billionaire buddies to cash in on unbalanced trade agreements?  Only time will tell.

AFL-CIO Releases Blueprint on Rewriting NAFTA to Benefit Working People

The AFL-CIO outlines six key provisions that need to be changed to help working families.

(Washington, DC) Today, the AFL-CIO is releasing 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.

1naftaImproving NAFTA for Working People

Over the last year the country has shown that we want a different direction on trade. This movement has been largely driven by workers. As we approach the inauguration of a new president, it is important that workers’ perspective lead the debate. In the coming months, the AFL-CIO will highlight how NAFTA should be rewritten.

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 exploitive, 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

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 like 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.

Improve the labor and environment side-treaties (the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation and the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation).  Add them to the original agreement, and ensure they are enforced.

The NAFTA labor and environment 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.

NAFTA-protest-bad-for-workers-1024x768Address 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 of 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.

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 to the TPP’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 help create a more robust labor market and help North American workers gain from trade.

NAFTADelete 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 great financial crisis of 2008, could be ineffective. This entire chapter should be deleted.

Upgrade the trade enforcement chapter (Chapter 19).

NAFTA allows for a final review of a domestic antidumping 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.

Berry Craig: Trump Could Create American Jobs Right Now

trump-lies-720

Image by Bill Day all rights reserved

By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

To hear GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump tell it, jobs will fall upon the land like manna from heaven if he’s elected.

But why wait, Mr. Trump? You can prove you’re a job creator right now: Start making your duds and other stuff stateside instead of abroad.

“Trump’s products have been made in 12 other countries,” claims an ad from the campaign of Hillary Clinton, his AFL-CIO endorsed Democratic foe. TheWashington Post verified the charge.

“We know of at least 12 countries where Trump products were manufactured (China, Netherlands, Mexico, India, Turkey, Slovenia, Honduras, Germany, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea),” wrote the Post’s Michelle Ye Hee Lee. All but the Netherlands and Germany are low-wage countries.

“Further, Trump products traveled through other countries through the packaging and shipping process — meaning workers in more than 12 countries contributed to getting many of Trump’s products made, packaged and delivered to the United States.”

Two western Kentucky labor leaders are on to Trump’s hypocrisy on jobs. “He says he wants to bring jobs back to America, but all of his signature lines are made somewhere overseas,” said Jeff Wiggins, president of Steelworkers Local 9447 in Calvert City and president of the Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council in Paducah.

“Why doesn’t some reporter stick a mike in Trump’s face and say ‘When are you going to bring your jobs back?'” asked Jimmy Evans, business manager of Paducah-based IBEW Local 816 in Paducah and a council delegate.

Meanwhile, Trump, though a proven big league outsourcer, continues to lambast outsourcing and trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which grease the skids for American companies like his to shift production and jobs—and often bust unions in the process—abroad, usually to cheap labor countries.

So think about it.

Would a President Trump really deep-six trade deals and stop outsourcing, moves that would hit him where it hurts him the most—in his bank account?

Oh, Clinton, as Trump loves to point out, was for NAFTA before she came out against it. But mum’s the word from Trump about how he was cool with outsourcing before he ran for president.

But here’s another point to ponder: Clinton doesn’t make a pile of money off products made in low wage countries and shipped stateside. Trump does. Hence, who’s more likely to put the kibosh on trade deals and outsourcing–the candidate who fattens his wallet off outsourcing or the candidate who doesn’t?

Anyway, the other day I heard a Bernie Sanders booster, who I’d bet the farm won’t vote for Clinton, blame her and the whole Democratic party for NAFTA and other job-killing trade deals. Trump would love this guy who fancies himself a liberal and claims to be a Democrat.

It’s true that President Bill Clinton backed NAFTA in 1993. But most Democrats in Congress didn’t. The Republicans got NAFTA passed.

In the House, 102 Democrats voted “aye” and 156 “nay.” The Republicans were for NAFTA 132-43. One independent voted no. His name is Bernie Sanders and he’s now in Clinton’s corner and in the Senate.

On the Senate side, the GOP went for NAFTA 34-10. The Democrats were 28-27 against NAFTA. (One Democrat did not vote.)

Donald Trump Right to WorkTrump, too, is fine with American companies moving jobs and production from one state to another. Almost always, the migration involves a unionized company closing down and pulling up stakes in a non-“right to work” state and reopening non-union in a RTW state.

Trump prefers RTW states to non-RTW states.

Trump is like the Kentucky horse trader of old. He’s happy to show you his teeth, but not the horse’s.

Trump’s NAFTA Baloney

trump-lies-720By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360

Either Donald Trump is flat fibbing about the North American Free Trade Agreement or he’s clueless about the deal unions say has cost thousands of American jobs.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee wants voters—especially working stiffs–to believe he’ll ditch the trade deal when he’s president.

Trump is short on specifics about how he’d put the kibosh on NAFTA. So let’s get specific.

A President Trump couldn’t repeal NAFTA by himself. Only Congress could. So is Trump just trying to dupe John and Jane Q Citizen into voting for him, or does he really not know how government works?

Either way, the odds of getting rid of NAFTA—or successfully renegotiating the trade pact—would be better under Hillary Clinton, Trump’s almost certain Democratic foe–or Bernie Sanders should he somehow edge Clinton at the finish line.

First some background: Republican President George H.W. Bush finished completing the deal with Canada and Mexico about three months before the 1992 presidential election. Bush was seeking a second term, but he lost to Democrat Bill Clinton.

The spouse of this year’s all-but-certain Democratic presidential nominee, Clinton got behind NAFTA. In 1993, Congress passed the trade deal, and he signed it.

The Democrats enjoyed majorities in the House and Senate, but the Republicans got the NAFTA bill passed. Most Democrats voted against it. The House endorsed NAFTA 234-200; the Senate 61-38.

In the House, 156 Democrats voted “nay” and 102 voted “yea.” Republicans favored the NAFTA bill 132-43. (The naysayers included an independent Vermont congressman named Sanders.)

The Senate split similarly: 28 Democrats opposed the legislation, and 27 were for it. Republicans favored NAFTA 34-10.

Okay, back to the present, where the GOP controls both houses of Congress. Most House and Senate Republicans still favor trade pacts like NAFTA, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which unions also vehemently reject. 

President Barack Obama, a Democrat, favors the TPP, which he says will really create more jobs. Most Democratic lawmakers side with unions and against the president.

Here’s the bottom line: If Trump is elected president, the GOP will almost certainly retain its majorities in both chambers, if not boost them. So the chance of NAFTA’s demise with a Trump presidency is virtually zero.

On the other hand, if Clinton or Sanders wins, the Democrats are apt to increase their House and Senate numbers. If the she or he wins big, the Democrats might take back the Senate and the House—or at least significantly whittle down the GOP’s margin the lower chamber.

The TPP would be toast, and NAFTA would be in big trouble.

Admittedly, Hillary Clinton backed NAFTA when the Big Dog was president. She has since changed her mind.

“Hillary has said for almost a decade that we need to renegotiate NAFTA, and she still believes that today,” maintains a Clinton campaign online Factsheet. “And she would review all of our trade agreements with the same scrutiny.”

The Factsheet also declares that Clinton would “say ‘no’ to new trade agreements that don’t meet her high bar – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Hillary will hit pause and say ‘no’ to new trade agreements unless they create American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security. After looking at the final terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, including what it contains on currency manipulation and its weak rules of origin standard for what counts as a car that can get treaty benefits, she opposed the agreement because it did not meet her test. And she will hold every future trade agreement to the same high standard.”

Trump, too has changed his tune. Before he ran for president, he was fine with outsourcing. While he never tires of trashing U.S. companies that ship jobs and production abroad, he’s a big-time outsourcer himself.

Trump flip-flops almost every time he opens his mouth, but he’s shown uncharacteristic consistency on unions. He’s anti-union.

He says he prefers “right to work” states to non-RTW states. Both Clinton and Sanders are staunchly anti-RTW.

While Trump insists union members love him, he’s determined to keep his hotel workers in Las Vegas from having a union. Clinton and Sanders support workers’ right to unionize.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Trump “a bigot. From his anti-American proposal to ban Muslims to his horrendous comments about women and immigrants, Trump is running on hate. It seems the only group he won’t criticize is the KKK.”

Added Trumka, a former president of the United Mine Workers of America: “Those statements and positions are bad enough. But what’s getting less attention is how Donald Trump really feels about working people…

“First, Trump loves right to work. He said it is “better for the people” and his position is ‘100 percent.’ Meanwhile, he is fighting tooth and nail against workers at his hotel in Las Vegas.

“Second, Trump was a major financial backer of Scott Walker and says he admired the way Walker took on public unions in Wisconsin.

“Finally, and most disturbingly, Trump says our wages are already too high. Can you believe that? Trump is advocating the polar opposite of our raising wages agenda.

You see, Trump says he’s with the American working class, but when you look close, it’s just hot air.”

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