Statement of Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch
Note: Today, President Donald Trump signed the implementing legislation for the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This follows passage in the U.S. Senate by a margin of 89-10 and in the U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 385-41 with 193 Democrats and 192 Republicans supporting. The White House did not invite any congressional Democrats to the 400-person signing event. By gaslighting the Democrats central role in creating a new NAFTA, Trump has generated new attention to the reality that the revised NAFTA deal he signed in 2018 was DoA in Congress and Democrats forced Trump to reopen that deal and rewrite it so that it might actually counteract some of NAFTA’s ongoing damage.
Donald Trump has a new NAFTA to sign into law today only because congressional Democrats forced him to reopen the NAFTA 2.0 deal he signed in 2018 to remove Big Pharma giveaways that would have locked in high medicine prices and to strengthen labor and environmental terms so a new NAFTA might counter outsourcing.
The corporate-rigged NAFTA 2.0 deal that Trump signed in 2018 betrayed his campaign promise to fix NAFTA and was “dead on arrival” in Congress. It included new Big Pharma giveaways that would have locked in high drug prices, making it worse than the original, and labor and environmental terms too weak to counteract NAFTA’s outsourcing of jobs and pollution.
Trump is desperate to pretend that this is his victory, but Public Citizen’s new Timeline of #ReplaceNAFTA Advocacy shows that the new NAFTA exists only thanks to relentless work by House Democrats, unions, consumer and faith groups, and activists nationwide who forced improvements to the 2018 deal Trump signed.
The unusually large, bipartisan congressional votes for the “revised revised” NAFTA show that to be politically viable, U.S. trade pacts no longer can include broad monopoly protections for Big Pharma or extreme corporate investor privileges and must have enforceable labor and environmental standards.
After congressional Democrats, unions and consumer groups forced Trump to remove Big Pharma giveaways and improve labor and environmental terms, the final revised deal is better than the original and might reduce some of NAFTA’s ongoing damage to workers and the environment.
But this new NAFTA won’t bring back hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs, as Trump nonsensically claims, despite U.S. auto manufacturers’ recent announcements that they plan to increase production in Mexico. This includes Ford’s decision to make its new Mustang electric SUV in Mexico. while GM has closed U.S. auto plants even as it has shifted production of its most popular vehicles to Mexico.
One important win for consumers, workers and the environment is the gutting of NAFTA’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) regime. ISDS empowers multinational corporations to go before panels of three corporate lawyers to demand unlimited compensation from taxpayers over claims that domestic policies or actions violate special investor privileges. The lawyers can award the corporations unlimited sums to be paid by taxpayers, including for the loss of expected future profits. To date, corporations have extracted almost $400 million from North American taxpayers after attacks on energy, water, timber and toxics policies. Largely eliminating ISDS will foreclose numerous corporate attacks on environmental, health and other safeguards and bolster countries worldwide seeking to exit the illegitimate ISDS regime.
The new NAFTA is not a template for future agreements; rather, it sets the floor from which we will fight for good trade policies that put working people and the planet first. Trying to fix an existing bad deal like NAFTA to reduce its ongoing damage is very different from creating a truly good trade deal that generates jobs, raises wages and protects the environment and public health.
Any new trade deals, including with the European Union and United Kingdom, must additionally include binding climate standards, even stronger rules to stop race-to-the-bottom outsourcing of jobs and pollution, and enforceable rules against currency cheating. And any new deals must not limit the protections needed to ensure our food and products are safe, our privacy is protected and monopolistic online firms are held accountable, and big banks do not crash the economy again.