Protestors at NGA Summit Confront Vice President Pence and Governors, Demand That NAFTA Be Replaced With Terms That Benefit Working People

July 14, 2017

Protestors at NGA Summit Confront Vice President Pence and Governors, Demand That NAFTA Be Replaced With Terms That Benefit Working People

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, Mexican and Canadian Governors Make Pro-NAFTA Pitch at Event in State That Lost More Than Half Its Manufacturing Jobs Under NAFTA

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Protestors from the broad coalition that derailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) confronted 30-plus governors attending this year’s National Governors Association (NGA) summit today to demand that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) be replaced with a deal that benefits working people. The NGA summit included two pro-NAFTA sessions, one with Mexican and Canadian governors, but no speakers critical of NAFTA. On Monday, the Trump administration will announce its plans for NAFTA renegotiations.

New England activists with “Replace NAFTA” signs and T-shirts converged on the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence as the governors arrived for one of the pro-NAFTA sessions. Some signs targeted NGA Chair and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who organized the lopsided agenda and has been touting NAFTA and the TPP in recent speeches.

“From the nation’s capital and now here in Providence, our message has been consistent: We must ensure that the NAFTA renegotiation process benefits all working people in America, Mexico and Canada,” said Larry Cohen, board chair of Our Revolution. “We opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and won because the American people know that we cannot continue to have trade deals that benefit corporations while compromising our living standards and environment.”

“With shuttered factories and poisoned rivers, NAFTA has been a disaster for Rhode Island and working people throughout North America. For 23 years, we have lived with NAFTA and we have yet to see a benefit. It is time for a second look and to build our economy to serve need, not greed,” said Michael Araujo, executive director of Rhode Island Jobs With Justice.

“Unchecked free trade has had a devastating effect on workers on both sides of the border. Jobs have been offshored in the U.S., and workers in Mexico don’t have the right mechanisms to fight for their rights,” said Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation. “We stand ready to fight for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement that provides labor standards, good jobs and more rights for workers across the region.”

The activists are part of a broad coalition that last month delivered more than 100,000 petitions calling for replacement of NAFTA and whose members filed an unprecedented 50,000 submissions in response to the U.S. Trade Representative’s request for comments on NAFTA renegotiation.

The activists’ demands for NAFTA renegotiation include:

• Making the NAFTA negotiating process transparent;

• Eliminating foreign investor protections and investor-state dispute settlement, which promote job offshoring and empower corporations to sue the United States for uncapped sums;

• Adding strong and enforceable labor, wage and environmental standards;

• Cutting rules that waive Buy American and Buy Local policies and offshore Americans’ tax dollars instead of investing them in creating jobs at home;

• Ensuring imported food, goods and services meet U.S. consumer and environmental standards; and

• Eliminating rules that drive up the price of lifesaving medicines by giving pharmaceutical companies extended monopolies to avoid generic competition.

“The part of NAFTA that I hate the most is investor-state dispute settlement, which gives multinational corporations new powers and privileges, and undermines our safety and environment,” said Liz King, a retired nurse and member of the Greater Boston Trade Justice coalition.

Vice President Mike Pence and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are slated to be headliners at the annual NGA summit, with Trudeau expected to deliver a strong defense of NAFTA. The pro-NAFTA focus is particularly discordant in Rhode Island. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, during the period NAFTA has been in effect, Rhode Island lost 42,703 or 51.5 percent of its total manufacturing jobs.

“There have been many news stories about lobbyists hired by various corporate groups and the Mexican and Canadian governments that are trying to recruit governors to fight against any major changes to NAFTA,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “The governors ought to listen to their constituents who want an end to NAFTA’s ongoing damage and a new deal that benefits them, not to a bunch of lobbyists who want to preserve a trade deal that has hurt most people in all three NAFTA countries.”

Organizations involved in the action included:
• Our Revolution
• Public Citizen
• Greater Boston Trade Justice Coalition
• Rhode Island Jobs with Justice
• Good Jobs Nation