fb tracking

Our Vision for Trade Policy: Alternatives to Corporate Globalization

Absent new inclusive, transparent policymaking processes – with proposals and draft texts published regularly – we cannot achieve new rules for the global economy that eliminate the special protections and privileges for corporate interests at the heart of our current policies and add the missing protections for workers, consumers and the environment. Today, the closed-door negotiations of “trade” agreements, with special access for 500 official U.S. trade advisors mainly representing corporate interests and the public and press locked out, means the resulting deals get rigged to suit a narrow group of corporate interests.

Public Citizen’s Trade Transition Memo outlines a new approach to trade policy for the Biden administration to prioritize the environmental and energy policies needed to counter climate chaos, protect consumer health and safety, create good jobs, and promote small businesses by breaking up monopolies.

Written in 2021 in collaboration with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, this memo describes a pathway forward for the Biden administration’s immediate, first 100 days and medium- and long-term goals to realize a progressive trade future to benefit people and the planet.

  • Negotiating process: Any negotiation must replace the corporate advisory system with an on-the-record public process, including public hearings, to formulate U.S. positions and obtain comment on draft and final U.S. text proposals. U.S.-proposed texts and draft consolidated texts after each negotiating session must be made public. Only by issuing detailed goals and making draft texts available will the American public know in whose interest the negotiations are being conducted.
  • Digital and emerging technologies-related issues: Any agreement should contain no terms diminishing privacy and data protections afforded by the countries’ respective laws. They also must ensure algorithmic transparency and accountability, including prohibition of discrimination against protected classes; remove barriers to due process; ensure accountability prevails over trade secrets; establish mechanisms for human oversight and control; and establish remedies for the adverse impacts of artificial intelligence systems on human rights and social justice, including but not limited to, ensuring effective privacy safeguards for large-scale datasets, collective complaint mechanisms, quality oversight, effective technical protection mechanisms and meaningful algorithmic auditing.
  • Require domestic laws to guarantee, enforce rights listed in core International Labor Organization (ILO) Conventions. To ensure workers benefit and firms in countries where workers are paid a living wage can compete, all trade agreements must require that signatory countries provide in their domestic laws the core ILO rights to which countries have agreed with goods that fail to meet these standards denied access under the trade pact. These agreements must provide affirmative protections for workers in different countries to engage in joint collective bargaining with multinational employers.
  • Clean energy-related and decarbonization-related issues: The U.S. and negotiating partners should commit to a “climate peace clause,” which would be a legally binding commitment by the parties that they will not use or permit the use of trade or investment rules in any of their international agreements to challenge climate policies. Environmental and climate-related terms in any U.S. trade agreement must prohibit the signatories from weakening, eliminating, or failing to enforce domestic environmental or other public health or safety standards. (Learn more)

For more detail on what must and must not be included in a good trade agreement, read our paper on what must and must not be included in a good trade agreements: The New Rules of the Road by GTW founder Lori Wallach and Jared Bernstein, economist and former advisor to Vice President Biden.

Here are the highlights of what negotiating process and resulting trade agreements that benefit people and the plant would and would not include:

  1. Democratic, accountable and transparent negotiating process without privileged backroom access for corporate lobbyists and industry associations. (Learn more)
  2. Eliminate the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, which gives multinational corporations rights to sue the government before a tribunal of three corporate lawyers and can award corporations unlimited sums to be paid by taxpayers, including for the loss of expected future profits. (Learn more)
  3. Eliminate terms that provide pharmaceutical firms monopoly rights that drive up the cost of life-saving medicines. (Learn more)
  4. Include strong and enforceable labor, wage, environmental and climate standards that set a floor, but not a ceiling on required conduct. (Learn more)
  5. Any trade deal must require all imported food and other goods and all services being consumed within a country to minimally comply with that country’s domestic safety and environmental rules. (Learn more)
  6. Eliminate terms that waive or undermine Buy American and Buy Local government procurement policies or that expose to challenge procurement policies that require labor, human rights, environmental, health or other conditions. (Learn more)
  7. Any trade deal must include rules against trade cheating, including terms to counter currency manipulation.


Learn more about the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment Act (TRADE Act) of 2009. This legislation provided a detailed replacement of the current U.S. “Fast Track” trade negotiation process and specified what terms should and should not be in U.S. trade pacts

This legislation had more than 150 congressional cosponsors and broad support among unions and civil society groups. It provides a detailed plan for a new trade agreement model and a new process to negotiate and enforce fair trade deals.

Fast Track Replacement

Learn more about the closed-door, corporate-influenced Fast Track process now used for trade negotiations and congressional approval of trade agreements and about more democratic, inclusive alternatives to Fast Track.