While this year's final renegotiation talks for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continued behind closed doors on Wednesday, members of more than 70 advocacy groups and multiple lawmakers hosted an event on Capitol Hill and launched a social media campaign as part of the #ReplaceNAFTA Day of Action.
"Americans have had enough with trade deals that make it easier to outsource jobs to wherever workers are the most exploited and environmental regulations are the weakest."
—Arthur Stamoulis, Citizens Trade Campaign
"Americans have had enough with trade deals that make it easier to outsource jobs to wherever workers are the most exploited and environmental regulations are the weakest," said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the Citizens Trade Campaign, one of the groups that helped organize the event in D.C.
"It's time to replace NAFTA with a new agreement that prioritizes the creation of good-paying jobs, the protection of human rights, and increased wages for all working people," he said.
Activists with labor, environmental, faith, consumer, family farm, and other advocacy groups came together to demand that through the renegotiation, the United States, Mexico, and Canada—the three nations party to the agreement—end NAFTA's outsourcing incentives and craft "labor and environmental provisions that are based on fundamental international standards and include swift and certain enforcement," Stamoulis said.
However, corporations oppose cutting the treaty's job outsourcing incentives, and also reject U.S. proposals to incorporate a Buy American waiver—which would limit Chinese content in NAFTA goods—and to add a five-year review.
"The corporate lobby is urging Mexico and Canada not to engage on U.S. proposals to improve NAFTA, which increases the prospects that talks deadlock and President [Donald] Trump withdraws," warned Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch. If the president decides to withdraw and NAFTA completely collapses, foreign policy and trade experts fear the move would jeopardize tourism, agriculture, automotive, and national security interests.
Although Trump the candidate touted trade policies that would benefit American workers and bragged about how he would "drain the swamp" if elected, his willingness to cater to industries' wishes and stock the government with lobbyists and corporate insiders during his first year as president has raised concerns that he will prioritize the corporate agenda in NAFTA talks.
"People will not stand by and let Donald Trump trade away their jobs, wages, climate, air, and water to the highest corporate bidder," said Ben Beachy, director of the Sierra Club's Responsible Trade Program.
"When Donald Trump campaigned for president, he promised that he was going to stop corporations from shifting American jobs to Mexico," said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who spoke at the event alongside Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). Addressing the president directly, Sanders added: "For once in your life, keep your promises."
On Twitter Wednesday, Sanders acknowledged the corporate forces hard at work to block proposed changes to the treaty that would favor workers instead of big businesses.
As we speak, the re-negotiation of NAFTA is being done behind closed doors with 500 corporate lobbyists and executives who are working overtime to protect their interests at the expense of working people.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 13, 2017
If the president is serious about fixing NAFTA, he must protect the interests of American workers—not the CEOs of multi-national corporations who have rigged our trade policies for the past 40 years.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) December 13, 2017
"We cannot let corporate special interests write the rules once again and rig this trade agreement against workers," DeLauro warned.
"This is an opportunity to learn from what hasn't worked and come up with an approach to trade that serves the common good," Ellison said. "We have to stand strong for a trade policy that lifts up workers, safeguards human rights, and protects the environment, not one that simply hands more power and profit to massive corporations."
Several activists and groups that helped organize the D.C. event and support renegotiating the treaty turned to Twitter on Wednesday to document their demands:
#NAFTA renegotiation must:
Ensure Worker Rights
Include Labor Rules with swift and certain enforcement #ReplaceNAFTA
— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) December 13, 2017
NAFTA allows corporations to outsource millions of jobs & lower our wages. Today, as negotiators meet to renegotiate the deal, make your voice heard.
— CWA (@CWAUnion) December 13, 2017
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) December 13, 2017
NAFTA negotiations are ongoing. Call 1-888-701-6507 now to tell your Representative our trade deals must protect people & the planet, not corporate profits! #TransformTrade #ReplaceNAFTA pic.twitter.com/RnubBPo3UO
— Sierra Club (@SierraClub) December 13, 2017
“#NAFTA needs to be renegotiated in PUBLIC.. for the sake of underrepresented communities. We’re better than that as a nation. WE ARE BETTER.” #ReplaceNAFTA #EndISDS #StopTPP - Sister Simone Campbell, Network pic.twitter.com/jaJzg9GefM
— LCLAA (@LCLAA) December 13, 2017