By Arthur Stamoulis
The Trump administration’s leaked plan to “tweak” the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) confirms one of our worst fears: that President Trump is poised to let big corporations dictate how NAFTA is rewritten.
Trump got into the White House, in large part, on the promise to end trade agreements that put corporate profits ahead of working people and healthy communities. But the damage caused by NAFTA and other trade deals is about to become even worse if the plan outlined by his current trade representative is enacted.
Many of the very corporations behind NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) have been salivating over the chance to use a shadowy NAFTA renegotiation process to their benefit. They want to rewrite NAFTA to add in the worst of the TPP — raking in billions for themselves with disastrous consequences for the majority of people both at home and abroad.
The recent leak indicates that Donald Trump has given these big corporations the reigns over his trade policy.
The White House’s written NAFTA renegotiation plan signals an expansion of TPP-style provisions that would weaken food safety standards, restrict access to generic medications, deregulate Wall Street and offer completely inadequate labor and environmental standards. The administration is not even proposing to eliminate the NAFTA chapter that threatens “Buy American” and “Buy Local” government procurement preferences, nor is it proposing to add language to combat currency manipulation. This plan would hurt working people and people living in poverty in all three countries.
Perhaps most troubling still, the Trump plan explicitly states that it wants to maintain NAFTA’s special protections for corporations that make it easier to offshore American jobs and to attack our domestic laws — the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions.
And, by the way, it’s not just us who are saying the White House NAFTA plan is an attempt to give new life to failed TPP proposals. Immediately after the plan was leaked the conservative, pro-TPP Cato Institute expressed relief, saying, “In a sense, this NAFTA renegotiation is an attempt to make NAFTA more like the TPP.”
Another pro-TPP columnist’s Forbes magazine article titled, “Trump Administration Makes a Surprising About Face on NAFTA,” cheered that, in reversing the President’s campaign promises to American workers, “cooler heads have prevailed in the White House.”
This is horrible news and bodes very poorly for the future of trade policy under the Trump administration. The one glimmer of hope is that, with enough public pressure, we can still stop the White House’s awful plans.
In the face of the backlash against the leaked NAFTA plan, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer refused to comment on the document itself, suggested that White House plans are still in flux and that the administration “will have plenty of updates on where we go with respect to NAFTA and the rest of our trade agreements.”
By stepping up our opposition to corporate-dominated trade policymaking, Americans — as well as people in Mexico and Canada — can still be saved from an even worse version of NAFTA that increases corporate profits at the expense of good-paying jobs, affordable medicine and environmental sustainability.
Arthur Stamoulis, is the Executive Director of Citizens Trade Campaign, a national coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, and human rights organizations working together to improve U.S. trade policy. Follow CTC on Twitter at @citizenstrade.