“Trade” Pacts Should Not Dictate How Our Tax Dollars Are Spent

Today’s “trade” pacts expand far beyond cutting tariffs and quotas, to even constrain how the public can direct our democratically elected federal and state governments to spend our tax dollars. These rules limit government procurement policies that nations are allowed to implement, undermining Buy Local, Buy American, and labor and environmental standards.

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 the multilateral 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, food safety and health 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 agreements’ limits on environmental, health and safety policies.

But today’s “trade” pacts also constrain how we the people can direct our democratically-elected federal and state governments to spend our tax dollars! Trade agreement “procurement rules” flat-out ban the use of Buy Local or Buy American policies commonly used at the federal and state levels that require the purchase of American-made goods when the government buys vehicles, computers, office equipment, furniture and more and that require materials going into government infrastructure construction to be made-in-America. These policies, like Buy American that originated in the Roosevelt administration, reinvest our tax dollars into creating jobs at home. But thanks to our trade agreements, companies and products from 61 trade agreement countries must be given the same access to U.S. government contracts. The agreements also expose the conditions governments require for procurement contracts – environmental standards and labor rules like prevailing wage laws – to attack as “illegal barriers” in trade agreement tribunals.