The North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations are on thin ice these days with the United States’ unpopular demands stirring dis-ease among the parties, but leaders at the Capitol are rallying to get the renegotiations back on track toward a deal.
At a #ReplaceNAFTA event in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, Congressional leaders, civil society members and more than 70 organizations joined other Americans across the country in calling, emailing and tweeting at Congress, demanding a successful NAFTA renegotiation.
The negotiations have reached a “pivot point,” a joint statement released by parties involved said, largely because the U.S. has suggested inclusions—like letting NAFTA self-terminate after five years unless there’s consensus to renew it and adding stipulations for more U.S. inputs in NAFTA goods and a limit on Chinese content—which Mexico and Canada have not gotten on board with. Business lobbyists have reportedly been urging Mexico and Canada to ignore these U.S. proposals in an effort to see the talks forward rather than deadlocked, which could lead President Trump to withdraw from the deal altogether.
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“U.S. civil society groups and activists participating in the ReplaceNAFTA Day of Action are urging the administration to eliminate NAFTA’s outsourcing incentives and add strong labor and environmental provisions that meet fundamental international standards, include swift and certain enforcement, and raise wages for all workers,” the statement noted. “Callers to Congress are demanding that a vote on a renegotiated NAFTA not be held until these essential standards are met.”
The unified position among those rallying Wednesday seemed to be: protect workers.
“Trade deals like NAFTA have decimated families and communities across North America, just so corporate executives can pocket even more in profits,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). “This is an opportunity to learn from what hasn’t worked and come up with an approach to trade that serves the common good. We have to stand strong for a trade policy that lifts up workers, safeguards human rights and protects the environment, not one that simply hands more power and profit to massive corporations.”
Companies and citizens are advocating for keeping NAFTA, but in a way that doesn’t mean Americans are losing jobs.
“Across the political spectrum, Americans reject the status quo of NAFTA helping corporations outsource more jobs to Mexico every week and attack health and environmental safeguards in secretive tribunals. We are fighting for a new deal that cuts NAFTA’s job-outsourcing incentives and corporate tribunals and adds strong labor and environmental terms to level the playing field,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “The corporate lobby is urging Mexico and Canada to not engage on U.S. proposals to improve NAFTA, which increases the prospects that talks deadlock and President Trump withdraws.”
Adding to that, other organizations are keen to protect the farmers supporting goods and food traded around North America.
“NAFTA has failed farmers in all three of its partner countries — the U.S. Canada and Mexico — all the while lining the pockets of large-scale corporate agribusiness,” said Juliette Majot, executive director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “At its very essence, trade is meant to improve the livelihoods of people residing in all partner countries. NAFTA never has. It is time for a new approach to trade aimed at ensuring fair prices to farmers and fair working conditions and livelihoods for farmworkers.”