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WTO, NAFTA and ‘Free Trade Agreements’ Even Meddle in How We Can Spend Our Tax Dollars

Green Procurement, Human Rights and Anti-Sweatshop Rules Threatened; Buy Local and Anti-offshoring Policies Banned

By Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch

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Many Americans know that the United States has lost nearly five million manufacturing jobs since “free trade”
agreements (FTAs) like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and World Trade Organization
(WTO) went into effect. And, now even high-tech and service jobs are being offshored in the same race to the
bottom. The incentives these agreements give firms to move production to low-wage nations (and send
products or services back tax-free) are pushing down wages for most American workers. And many people
know that an array of environmental laws have been successfully challenged and weakened under these pacts,
and that unsafe imported food and products have flooded into the country thanks to the pacts’ limits on
environmental, health and safety policies.
But what many Americans do not realize is that today’s “trade” pacts even constrain how our
democratically-elected federal and state governments can choose to spend our tax dollars. Trade
agreement “procurement rules” label certain environmental and human rights conditions as “illegal barriers”
and flat-out ban other procurement policies commonly used at the federal and state levels. As a result, the pacts
could undermine plans for future green jobs programs based on government investment in alternative energy
and infrastructure improvements. Plus, the pacts pose threats to jobs that cannot be moved out of the United
States, such as government-contracted construction jobs. For decades, before NAFTA and the WTO, trade
deals only covered border taxes (tariffs) and quotas on goods. Government procurement and the service sector,
like construction, were not covered, much less how we spend our tax dollars.