Continuing Hypocrisy: NAFTA Renegotiations Will Possibly Resemble TPP

There would be harm to most consumers if unjust protectionist measures were taken to make drug patents last longer and be more cruelly enforced, especially across the North American continent. TPP is not a free trade agreement, as the agreement’s protectionist measures for large corporations are much more significant than its other minor tariff reductions. It’s not even much of a trade agreement, since the vast majority of TPP’s chapters aren’t about trade. More accurately, TPP is an investor rights agreement seeking to impose corporate domination over sovereign governments and democratic initiatives.

I am most concerned about the ISDS provision in the TPP infecting other agreements. Multinational corporations should never have more power to sue governments in front of tribunals of three corporate lawyers — and then be allowed to extract billions of dollars from taxpayers for “lost future profits” when there’s a law interfering with the corporate exploitation. Since treaties share the distinction of being the highest law in the land with the U.S. Constitution, ISDS could actually allow corporations to legally change laws in their favor. That would be a disaster, and it must be avoided.

The Trump administration has released their plans for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Observers say they are surprisingly similar to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump withdrew from in one of his first acts as president. As the White House kicks off its “Made in America”-themed week, labor leaders say the new NAFTA plan worsens protections for workers and would be “the ultimate in hypocrisy.” “There’s enough vagueness in the descriptions that it’s unclear … if we are going to reduce the offshoring of U.S. jobs, the pressure downward on wages in all the countries,” says Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach. She also notes that “[Trump] has refused to divest his business interests. He’s refused to disclose what his full investments are in Mexico and Canada.”

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LORI WALLACH: Well, the document that came out yesterday certainly doesn’t describe the revolutionary transformation of the NAFTA into something that’s “much better” for working Americans, which is what President Trump promised as a candidate. On the other hand, the document is fairly vague. And I think there are a couple of different reasons for that being the case. But it remains really unclear from this document if, on the one hand, some real improvements might be in the offing in—relative to the current agreement, or, looking at this document—you can go either way—a lot of what was in the Trans-Pacific Partnership is going to get added on to the existing NAFTA, the bad stuff is not going to get cut, and, as a result, the agreement is going to be worse for people and the planet in all three countries. And there’s enough vagueness in the descriptions that it’s unclear if the things that simply must be done—and there is a short list of them that must be done—if we are going to reduce the offshoring of U.S. jobs, the pressure downward on wages in all the countries. The language is so vague, it’s not clear they’re doing that. But on the other hand, the language is so vague, it’s unclear exactly what, say, the labor and environmental standards will be.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Lori, clearly, one of the goals would be to reduce the trade deficit between the U.S., especially, and Mexico, but also there’s all this stuff about currency manipulation. I don’t think anyone has ever accused Canada or Mexico of being involved in currency manipulation. Could you talk about those two aspects?

LORI WALLACH: Well, it is super-interesting, and it really is the first time that a U.S. trade agreement has listed as its objective bringing down the trade deficit. So, when President Trump was a candidate, he talked about making NAFTA “much better” for working Americans, and he described what that would mean as bringing down the trade deficit, which was $173 billion of goods trade deficit with Mexico and Canada last year. And he said he would make sure that more jobs are created by renegotiating. So, on the one hand, it’s pretty interesting, and it’s never been the case that an explicit goal of the negotiations is to try and get the trade more in balance. And that’s actually a good thing. The flipside of that is, it’s unclear whether the objectives will deliver on that.

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I mean, if you want to talk about the Trump trade hypocrisy, put your head around this one. Remember, everyone heard him say, “I’m going to make companies that offshore jobs suffer.” And he threatened Carrier: “Don’t you take those jobs out of Indiana and over to Mexico.” Well, Carrier is offshoring 1,200 to 2,000 jobs. So has anything happened to them? Oh, yes. Not a punishment, but 15 new lucrative government contracts since the Trump administration. So, there are, I would say, deep politics and conflicts in that administration on not just the Buy America week, but what happens with the NAFTA negotiations, that make the concerns about in whose interest, what’s actually going to be on the table, very real.