Public Citizen welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) proposal to enter into renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer organization with more than 400,000 members. A mission of Public Citizen is to ensure that in this era of globalization, a majority can enjoy economic security; a clean
environment; safe food, medicines and products; access to quality affordable services; and the exercise of democratic decision-making about the matters that affect their lives. We have conducted extensive analysis of U.S. trade and investment agreements and their outcomes, starting in 1991 during the initial NAFTA negotiations.
President Donald Trump has labeled NAFTA “the worst trade deal in the history of the country.” He promised to renegotiate it to bring down our large, persistent NAFTA deficit and to create manufacturing jobs here. He pledged to withdraw from it if he could not “get a much better deal for our workers.” NAFTA set a new – and now proven failed – trade agreement model. It was a radical break from past agreements that focused on traditional trade matters, such as tariff and quota elimination. NAFTA is rigged with investor protections and other incentives to offshore jobs as well as special interest provisions that have resulted in damage to most Americans’ interests as workers and consumers. To stop this damage and to create a new model for U.S. trade agreements, NAFTA must be replaced – not tweaked.
Yet, some in the administration, including repeatedly the official who President Trump has said will lead trade policy, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, suggest the “starting point” for renegotiations is the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Not only was the TPP based on expanding the damaging model established with NAFTA, but President Trump declared the TPP a disaster and formally withdrew from
the deal, which could not obtain majority support in Congress. Failing to remove NAFTA’s damaging provisions and adding TPP terms will make NAFTA worse for working people.
Monthly government data will show whether a revised NAFTA delivers on the deficit reduction and job creation President Trump promised. Moving those numbers will require eliminating NAFTA’s investor protections that promote job and investment offshoring, reversing its ban on Buy American procurement and adding terms that raise Mexican wage levels and environmental standards, among other changes.
Absent a major redo that can stop NAFTA’s ongoing damage, it is better to have no NAFTA than an agreement that maintains NAFTA’s current investment, procurement, and other terms that directly harm working people. That is the case because NAFTA is causing significant ongoing damage for working people, healthy communities and a clean environment here and in Mexico and Canada.