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.
Full video of panel here or below.