The Trump administration this week released its objectives for renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—the trade deal Donald Trump referred to as "the worse deal ever"—and while observers say the document includes "a lot of boilerplate language" and is "fairly vague," advocacy groups say it appears to be a road-map for the deal to continue benefiting multinational corporations at the expense of workers.
Fast Track authority—granted by Congress to the executive branch under the Obama administration—requires the White House to release their trade objectives 30 days before negotiations are set to begin. The first round of talks between the three parties, the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, is set to begin in August.
According to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch program, document put out by the Trump administration "is quite vague so while negotiations can start in 30 days, it's unclear what will be demanded on key issues, whether improvements for working people could be in the offing or whether the worst aspects of the TPP"—the trade deal Trump railed against on the campaign trail and dumped once in office—"will be added making NAFTA yet more damaging for working people."
For example, she said, the "document does not make clear whether NAFTA's job offshoring incentives or its ban on Buy American procurement policy will be eliminated or labor or environmental standards better than the widely rejected one in the TPP will be added."
The Minnesota-based institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy similarly said that the plan for a new NAFTA looks a whole lot like TPP.
The group also says the objectives "failed to incorporate input from civil society organizations despite detailed and extensive proposals," as well as "continue the administration's trend of putting multinational corporations' narrow interests first by using the same blueprint that shaped the failed TPP." Even as candidate Trump railed against the TPP during last year's campaign, the group continued, it looks as though his negotiating team "plan to incorporate TPP text into NAFTA 2.0."
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Bill Warren, senior trade analyst with Friends of the Earth, raised similar concerns, and warned of a potential "stealth attack" come.
"Donald Trump demonized NAFTA and the TPP during his presidential campaign and made assurances he would rework trade deals to protect the American people. Now, it appears that Trump has modified his message. Since taking office, Trump has shown repeatedly that he plans to 're-do' NAFTA to benefit corporations," Warren said.
The plan, he continued, "indicates [Trump] plans to step up his war on public health and the planet by modeling NAFTA's provisions related to environmental regulation on the TPP. These objectives appear to set the stage for a stealth attack on strong regulation of food, agriculture, chemicals, and biotechnology."
Writing for The Nation on Tuesday, David Dayen highlighted various concerns about Trump's approach and concluded:
The biggest thing needed to truly assess whether the administration actually wants to fix NAFTA’s problems or further entrench corporate control is transparency. The European Union posts its formal proposals on the Internet for all to see before entering negotiations. Trump needs to do the same; otherwise we can assume he has something to hide from the working-class supporters who were promised a revitalization of US manufacturing. Workers have already seen those promises broken: Just look at Carrier, whose parent company received 15 government contracts after the company moved jobs to Mexico it said it would keep in the United States. They shouldn’t have to brace for being deceived again.
Public Citizen's Wallach also made a call for increased transparency, saying that before the negotiations begin, the administration "should follow the European Union's practice and make public its actual proposals being shared with Mexico and Canada."