We must keep fighting for a NAFTA replacement that puts workers first.
The NAFTA 2.0 text includes some improvements we have long demanded, as well as the addition of damaging terms we have long opposed in other pacts. It also reveals that more work is needed, especially with respect to ensuring the swift and certain enforcement of labor standards and environmental standards.
25 Years of NAFTA: Promises Versus Reality
As a renegotiated NAFTA 2.0 deal remains a work in progress, a new report spotlights why the NAFTA model must be replaced. Improvements are needed to the NAFTA 2.0 deal signed on Nov. 30, 2018 so that, at a minimum, a new deal will stop NAFTA’s ongoing damage to workers and the environment.
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 $392 million in taxpayer money to multinational corporations after attacks on toxic substances, forestry, water, environmental and public health policies, and more. Of the 13 claims (for more than $36 billion) now pending under NAFTA, nearly all relate to environmental, energy, financial, public health, land use and transportation policies – not traditional trade issues.
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 outsourcing 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, outsourcing 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.
Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, almost one million U.S. jobs have been certified as lost to NAFTA, by just one narrow government program.
NAFTA guts “Buy American” and “Buy Local” polices. NAFTA’s procurement chapter requires that all firms operating in Mexico and Canada be provided the same access to U.S. government procurement contracts as U.S. firms get – outsourcing U.S. tax dollars and eliminating U.S. jobs.
Since NAFTA, food imports from Mexico and Canada have surged 194 percent, overwhelming border food inspectors. NAFTA also explicitly limited border food safety inspection and required us to accept food imports that do not meet U.S. safety standards.
Environmental protections are threatened by the terms at the heart of NAFTA that empower thousands of multinational corporations to drag governments to a tribunal of three corporate lawyers to demand unlimited taxpayer compensation if they think a country’s environmental, conservation, climate, energy or other policies violate their NAFTA privileges.
Big Content and other corporations are pushing for new intellectual property rules in NAFTA that would threaten our freedoms on the internet and restrict our access to information and educational resources.
If Big Pharma corporations succeed in inserting their proposed medicines rules into NAFTA, we will get locked into the bad policies that have made high U.S. medicine prices an outrage and export these life-threatening rules to Canada and Mexico.
NAFTA devastated Mexico’s rural sector, destroyed tens of thousands of small businesses, harmed workers, and forced many to leave their homeland.
Canada has been slammed by the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) corporate tribunals that empower multinational corporations to sue governments before a panel of three corporate lawyers who can award the corporations unlimited sums of money to be paid by the taxpayers.