What is NAFTA?

The North American Free Trade Agreement was negotiated behind closed doors with hundreds of corporate advisors. Its key provisions promote job offshoring and empower corporations to sue the U.S. government before three corporate lawyers to obtain uncapped sums of money from taxpayers for domestic environmental and other policies the corporations oppose. This deal between the United States, Mexico and Canada was used as the model for the TPP, a deal widespread public opposition derailed last year.

Why do we want to replace NAFTA?

Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, almost one million specific American jobs have been certified as lost to NAFTA under just one narrow government program. NAFTA tribunals already have awarded more than $370 million in taxpayer money to multinational corporations after attacks on toxic substances, forestry, water, environmental and public health policies, and more. An additional $50 billion is being demanded in the NAFTA cases now underway.

NAFTA is radically different from earlier U.S. “trade” agreements. It does not focus primarily on trade; instead, it grants vast new investor rights and other special benefits for corporations while imposing constraints on the safeguards for our health and the environment that Congress, state legislatures or even city councils could enforce.

The core provisions of NAFTA make it easier for firms to relocate jobs by eliminating many of the risks that make corporations think twice about offshoring production to a low wage country. These terms also grant new rights for thousands of multinational corporations to bypass domestic courts and directly “sue” governments before a panel of three corporate lawyers. These lawyers can award the corporations unlimited sums to be paid by America’s taxpayers, including for the loss of expected future profits. These corporations need only convince the lawyers that a U.S. law, court ruling or safety regulation violates their NAFTA rights. Their decisions are not subject to outside appeal and the amount they can order taxpayers to pay corporations has no limit.

NAFTA also requires us to import food that does not meet our safety standards. And it requires the United States, Mexico and Canada to limit regulation of services, such as trucking, energy and banking. It provides extended monopoly rights to pharmaceutical corporations that block competition from generic medicines and keep medicine prices high. It also requires us to waive Buy American and Buy Local procurement policies, offshoring our tax dollars that would otherwise be reinvested to create jobs at home.

NAFTA not only failed to live up to its proponents’ promises of more jobs, higher wages and a cleaner environment, but it also caused massive job loss, pushed down wages and devastated communities nationwide. Scores of environmental, health and other public interest policies have been challenged. Consumer safeguards, including key food safety protections, were rolled back. And, the damage was not limited to the United States. NAFTA supporters argued that the deal was necessary to stabilize Mexico’s economy, improve its political stability and avoid a new wave of migration from Mexico. But in reality, increasing violence, chaos and migration from Mexico came to pass in the years after NAFTA implementation, due in part to the devastation of many Mexicans’ livelihoods from NAFTA rules.

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