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Democratic presidential candidates are united in the view that the Trump administration's proposal for a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should not be approved by Congress without substantive improvements to the text Donald Trump signed last year.
All sixteen candidates -- including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Julian Castro and others -- who responded to a question posed by a national coalition working on trade policy agreed that the new NAFTA proposal "should not be enacted unless and until stronger labor and environmental terms with swift and certain enforcement are added and language on pharmaceutical monopolies that locks in high medicine prices is removed."
"Given how important Trump's trade promises were to his 2016 election, it's not surprising that those looking to unseat him are quick to point out that Trump's proposed NAFTA revision fails to make the changes needed to stop outsourcing and that its new giveaways for pharmaceutical companies would lock in high drug prices," said Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of Citizens Trade Campaign, the coalition of labor, environmental, family farm, faith and consumer organizations that approached the various campaigns on the issue. "Americans deserve a comprehensive NAFTA replacement that actually protects jobs, raises wages, defends worker rights and safeguards the environment. A lot more work is needed to get there."
While some Republicans and corporate lobby groups are pushing for Congress to approve the NAFTA 2.0 text as written this summer, House Democrats are currently urging the White House to make changes to its NAFTA proposal in the areas of labor, the environment, enforcement and access to medicines before introducing the pact for a vote. Democratic Congress members' resolve could be bolstered by the unanimous support of so many Democratic candidates vying for the presidency.
Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Bill de Blasio, Kirsten Gillabrand, Mike Gravel, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Beto O'Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren and Marianne Williamson each answered "Yes" to the question, "Do you agree that the revised version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by President Trump on November 30, 2018 should not be enacted unless and until stronger labor and environmental terms with swift and certain enforcement are added and language on pharmaceutical monopolies that locks in high medicine prices is removed?"
The following candidates also offered these additional comments:
Sen. Cory Booker
"I am opposed to President Trump's new NAFTA deal. It should be renegotiated to strengthen labor protections and environmental standards, and improve access to prescription drugs."
Mayor Bill de Blasio
"America doesn't want NAFTA 2.0 and that is exactly what the agreement President Trump signed is.
"For decades Republicans - and too many Democrats - promised American workers that the benefits of free trade would 'trickle down' to them. It didn't happen and it won't happen under the terms of the deal President Trump has negotiated.
"Trump's new NAFTA will do nothing to address the problems with the old NAFTA. While masquerading as 'America First,' Trump's proposal prohibits 'Buy American' procurement policies. It makes no mention of climate change but gives oil and gas companies new tools to evade Mexican environmental laws. It allows big pharma to lock in higher prescription drug prices. And it doesn't do anything to address the outsourcing of U.S. jobs.
"For Congress to consider approving this trade deal significant changes must be made: removing sweetheart provisions for fossil fuel and pharmaceutical companies, and significantly strengthening enforcement of labor and environmental provisions.
"What America truly needs is an entirely new approach to trade that puts working people and our planet first, not multinational corporations. Trump's NAFTA 2.0 doesn't provide that."
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
"NAFTA must be completely overhauled in order to establish dependable trading conditions that are fair for our communities and our workers. Any changes to NAFTA must strengthen enforcement provisions and increase protections for labor and the environment because our workers can out-compete anyone in the world on a balanced playing field. Too many drug companies care more about their own profits than whether sick patients have access to medicine. I will advocate that any new deal must break the stranglehold of pharmaceutical companies on high drug prices to help people get access to the medicine they need."
Sen. Mike Gravel
"NAFTA and its updated worker pillaging version signed by Trump are treaties designed to extract the greatest amount of surplus value from workers by slashing wages through relocation and instigating phony race to the bottom competition between workers in North America. The Reagan Administration illegally collaborated with the auto industry to move it out of Detroit and Clinton put the nail in the coffin by signing NAFTA. At a moment when there's a timidly resurgent labour movement in Mexico and the United States, Trump is trying to stifle it through regulatory action and trade sleight of hands like the new treaty."
Sen. Kamala D. Harris
"I believe the purpose of any trade agreement must be to create jobs in America, raise wages, and strengthen the middle class. That's why, as president, I will not sign any trade agreement unless it contains strong and enforceable provisions to protect workers, safeguard our environment, and crack down on trade manipulation by other countries. In my Administration, labor will have a seat at the table to ensure any agreement meets that test. It's clear the so-called 'U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement' does not, and as a result, I will not support it."
Gov. Jay Inslee
"I believe we must revise North American trade policy in a way that directly confronts climate change and implements strong, enforceable labor and environmental standards that help the United States meet climate action goals. Currently, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) negotiated by the Trump Administration does not contain sufficiently enforceable labor or environmental standards, nor does it even mention the term 'climate change.' Clearly, we must do better.
"I also believe that U.S. trade policies, trade agreements, and trade relationships should all be evaluated to ensure they are consistent with the swift and just transition to a global carbon-free future. Historically, American trade policy -- and most international trade agreements -- has often been an impediment to effective climate action. America's trade agreements have frequently preferred corporate profits over protections for workers, consumers, public health, and the climate or the environment. This profits-over-people approach to trade has led to a series of missed opportunities. That is why I have proposed applying a new and enforceable climate standard to American trade agreements, to condition their terms upon each party's commitment to adopt, maintain and implement policies specifically to fulfill their commitments to the Paris Agreement, and to take other actions, such as investing in global climate mitigation and adaptation, and adopting and implementing other agreements such as the Kigali Amendment."
Sen. Bernie Sanders
"The reality is that Trump's NAFTA 2.0 would do nothing to prevent corporations from shipping jobs to Mexico where workers are paid less than two bucks an hour. It includes outrageous giveaways to the fossil fuel and pharmaceutical industries. So, I say to Donald Trump: For once in your life, keep your campaign promises. Go back to the drawing board on NAFTA. Do not send this treaty to Congress until it includes strong and swift enforcement mechanisms to raise the wages of workers to prevent corporations from outsourcing American jobs to Mexico and protect the environment. And take out all of the riders in your treaty that increase prescription drug prices and benefit big oil companies. We need a trade policy in America that works for working families, not the CEOs of multinational corporations."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
"There's no question we need to renegotiate NAFTA. The federal government has certified that NAFTA has already cost us nearly a million good American jobs - and big companies continue to use NAFTA to outsource jobs to Mexico to this day. But as it's currently written, Trump's deal won't stop the serious and ongoing harm NAFTA causes for American workers. It won't stop outsourcing, it won't raise wages, and it won't create jobs. It's NAFTA 2.0.
"For example, NAFTA 2.0 has better labor standards on paper but it doesn't give American workers enough tools to enforce those standards. Without swift and certain enforcement of these new labor standards, big corporations will continue outsourcing jobs to Mexico to so they can pay workers less.
"NAFTA 2.0 is also stuffed with handouts that will let big drug companies lock in the high prices they charge for many drugs. The new rules will make it harder to bring down drug prices for seniors and anyone else who needs access to life-saving medicine.
"And NAFTA 2.0 does little to reduce pollution or combat the dangers of climate change - giving American companies one more reason to close their factories here and move to Mexico where the environmental standards are lower. That's bad for the earth and bad for American workers.
"For these reasons, I oppose NAFTA 2.0, and will vote against it in the Senate unless President Trump reopens the agreement and produces a better deal for America's working families. The President grabs headlines railing against GM's plans to axe thousands of American jobs in Ohio and Michigan - but his actual policies aren't stopping them or others like them from continuing to put corporate profits ahead of American workers. It's time for real change. We need a new approach to trade, and it should begin with a simple principle: our policies should not prioritize corporate profits over American paychecks. That should be true for NAFTA and true for every deal we cut."
Ms. Marianne Williamson
"We need to protect the interests of American workers, consumers and citizens in any new NAFTA agreement. Before Congress approves the new NAFTA 2.0, we must strengthen both labor and environmental standards, and write them into the core of the agreement so they are enforceable. And we must limit the monopoly control of pharmaceutical companies, so medicines can be more affordable and accessible for people who need them."
The Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC) is a national coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious, and other civil society groups founded in 1992 to improve the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). We are united in a common belief that international trade and investment are not ends unto themselves, but instead must be viewed as a means for achieving other societal goals such as economic justice, human rights, healthy communities, and a sound environment.(202) 494-8826
"Just when we need to be rolling back oil and gas production, BP is rolling back its climate commitments."
BP, a London-based oil giant that has attempted to style itself as a leader of the renewable energy transition, announced Tuesday that it is slashing its emission-reduction goals and planning more fossil fuel output than previously expected after reporting a record $28 billion in profits for 2022—more than double what it made the year before.
Compared to its earlier plan to curtail fossil fuel production by 40% below 2019 levels, the company said it now intends to cut output by just 25% by 2030.
"BP correspondingly now aims for a fall of 20% to 30% in emissions from the carbon in its oil and gas production in 2030 compared to a 2019 baseline, lower than the previous aim of 35-40%," the company said in a press release.
The oil giant also said it plans to pour just as much money—up to $8 billion—into its fossil fuel businesses as its so-called "transition growth engines," which include renewables, by 2030.
BP's announcement came a day after the head of the United Nations said fossil fuel companies that can't establish credible plans to sharply reduce carbon emissions "should not be in business."
"We need a renewables revolution, not a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
BP's decision to scale down its climate goals drew the ire of campaigners and scientists, who stressed that growing fossil fuel production is imperiling global hopes of staving off even more catastrophic warming.
"Just when we need to be rolling back oil and gas production, BP is rolling back its climate commitments," said Doug Parr, Greenpeace U.K.'s chief scientist. "Don't let the spin disguise it. This looks like BP edging back to being a traditional oil company."
Climate scientist Bill McGuire argued BP's announcement further demonstrates that fossil fuel companies can't be trusted to voluntarily cut production and potentially sacrifice short-term profits for the sake of the climate, no matter how splashy their pledges and rebrands.
"BP cuts its emissions pledge and plans a greater production of oil and gas over the next seven years compared with previous targets," McGuire tweeted. "This is criminal. [Fossil fuel] corps must be forced to stop drilling. It is our only chance now."
"These companies are not serious about climate action or transitioning away from oil and gas."
BP is the latest oil and gas behemoth to report record-shattering profits for 2022, a banner year for fossil fuel companies thanks in large part to the ongoing energy market impacts of Russia's war on Ukraine.
In its fourth quarter earnings announcement, BP said it would boost its dividend and buy back an additional $2.75 billion worth of its own shares. The company repurchased $11.25 billion of its stock last year.
"Importantly, we are delivering for our shareholders—with buybacks and a growing dividend," BP CEO Bernard Looney said in a statement. "This is exactly what we said we would do and will continue to do—performing while transforming."
Freya Aitchison, oil and gas campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland, called BP's profits "sickening" and said fossil fuel giants "are being allowed to bank billions in profits whilst millions of ordinary people struggle to pay their bills."
"Bosses and shareholders at these big polluters are being allowed to get even richer by profiteering from one of our most basic needs. The harm caused by the fossil fuel energy system couldn't be clearer," Aitchison added. "These companies are not serious about climate action or transitioning away from oil and gas. The evidence shows they are spending just a tiny fraction of their profits into truly green projects."
"This was a righteous case. You should bring it," Mark Pomerantz says to Alvin Bragg. "It's important. And if you made the wrong decision, make a better decision."
"We developed evidence convincing us that Donald Trump had committed serious crimes. As we put the facts together, many of us came to believe that we had enough evidence to convict him, and we could present a solid case in court that would lead to a guilty verdict."
That's what Mark Pomerantz—one of two prosecutors involved with the Manhattan district attorney's probe into the former president who resigned in protest last year—wrote in his new book, People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account, set to be published Tuesday by Simon & Schuster.
The Hill, which obtained a copy of the 304-page book, reported Monday on what Pomerantz had to say about Alvin Bragg, Manhattan's current district attorney, succeeding Cy Vance Jr.
"The district attorney agreed and authorized the new prosecution," Pomerantz wrote of Vance. "But then the district attorney's office went through one of its very infrequent regime changes. The new regime decided that Donald Trump should not be prosecuted, and the investigation faltered."
According to The Hill:
Bragg in a statement said he didn't read the book, but he criticized it for jeopardizing the office's ongoing investigation. When reached for comment, his office also provided a copy of confidentiality rules in the employee handbook and a series of statements from prosecutor groups raising concerns.
"After closely reviewing all the evidence from Mr. Pomerantz's investigation, I came to the same conclusion as several senior prosecutors involved in the case, and also those I brought on: more work was needed. Put another way, Mr. Pomerantz's plane wasn't ready for takeoff,” Bragg said in a statement.
"Our skilled and professional legal team continues to follow the facts of this case wherever they may lead, without fear or favor. Mr. Pomerantz decided to quit a year ago and sign a book deal," he added.
The book is not the first time Pomerantz has made his argument that investigators had enough evidence to charge Trump, who is now seeking the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination. Last March, The New York Timesreported on the ex-prosecutor's resignation letter to Bragg the previous month.
"I believe that Donald Trump is guilty of numerous felony violations of the penal law in connection with the preparation and use of his annual statements of financial condition," Pomerantz wrote. "His financial statements were false, and he has a long history of fabricating information relating to his personal finances and lying about his assets to banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people."
Pomerantz—who spent a year poring over Trump's financial statements and accounting documents from 2011-20—also outlined the case against the former president Sunday in a "60 Minutes" interview CBS News' Bill Whitaker:
Mark Pomerantz: And what the investigation determined was that the financial statements that were submitted to banks for those years were overstated in each case by literally billions of dollars.
Bill Whitaker: Billions—
Mark Pomerantz: Billions of dollars.
Bill Whitaker: How was his business empire dependent on, or influenced by these false statements?
Mark Pomerantz: The financial statements that he prepared were given to the banks, and had to be given to the banks, in order to get the loans that he got. So he got hundreds of millions of dollars of bank financing in connection with many of his properties.
Bill Whitaker: it sounds like you're saying that his empire is built on lies.
Mark Pomerantz: His empire was built on lies. I am saying that.
Bill Whitaker: He paid off the loans. What's the crime?
Mark Pomerantz: The law is crystal clear that you don't have to prove that a loan wasn't repaid or that a bank lost money. It's still a crime to lie to a bank to get a loan.
Asked what his message to Bragg is now, Pomerantz said: "This was a righteous case. You should bring it. It's important. And if you made the wrong decision, make a better decision."
Similar to his statement to The Hill, Bragg told "60 Minutes" that he believed that further investigation was needed and his office's probe is ongoing.
Trump lashed out at Pomerantz and what he called the CBS "hit job" on his Truth Social platform, saying in part: "Crooked Hillary Clinton's lawyer, radically deranged Mark Pomerantz, led the fake investigation into me and my business at the Manhattan D.A.'s Office and quit because D.A. Bragg, rightfully, wanted to drop the 'weak' and 'fatally flawed' case. Now, Pomerantz got himself a book deal, and is obsessively spreading falsehoods about me. With all of this vicious disinformation being revealed by a 'prosecutor,' how can I ever be treated fairly in New York, or anywhere else? End the Witch Hunts!"
The former president faces a variety of legal issues related to his business, his handling of classified documents, and his attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
The "60 Minutes" interview and The Hill's reporting followed multiple reports about the forthcoming book—including The Daily Beastrevealing Friday that Pomerantz wrote, "To rebut the claim that Trump believed his own 'hype'... we would have to show, and stress, that Donald Trump was not legally insane."
"Was Donald Trump suffering from some sort of mental condition that made it impossible for him to distinguish between fact and fiction?" he added, noting that lawyers advising the district attorney's office "discussed whether Trump had been spewing bullshit for so many years about so many things that he could no longer process the difference between bullshit and reality."
"This case has been an obscene injustice," Amnesty's Hana Young said as the mass trial began. "Peaceful political opposition is not a crime."
As the 90-day trial of 16 pro-democracy figures began Monday in Hong Kong, the global human rights group Amnesty International blasted what it called the "politically motivated" charges against the defendants, while urging authorities to drop the case.
The 16 defendants are part of a group of 47 people including former lawmakers, ex-district councilors, academics, and activists who were arrested in January 2021 and subsequently charged with "conspiracy to commit subversion" in alleged violation of a 2020 national security law. The legislation has been condemned by legal experts and activists as a threat to both human rights and Hong Kong's purported autonomy from Beijing.
The 16 pleaded not guilty Monday; the other 31 previously entered guilty pleas. All of the so-called Hong Kong 47 stand accused of plotting to turn Hong Kong's legislature into a "lethal constitutional weapon" against the Chinese government. In a break with Hong Kong's common law judicial tradition, the case is being tried by a trio of hand-picked prosecutors instead of a jury.
"This case has been an obscene injustice since the unprecedented mass prosecution of the 47 defendants began in March 2021," Amnesty deputy regional director Hana Young said in a statement. "In a trial that lays bare the intrinsically abusive nature of the national security law, some of the defendants face up to life in prison simply for taking part in political party 'primaries.'"
\u201cVIDEO: Hong Kong's largest national security trial opened Monday with 47 pro-democracy figures accused of trying to topple the government.\nThe defendants, who include some of the city's most prominent activists, face up to life in prison if convicted.\u201d— AFP News Agency (@AFP News Agency) 1675687200
The five defendants accused of being "major organizers" of the plot are: Benny Tai, a legal scholar; Au Nok-hin, an ex-legislator; Chiu Ka-yin and Chung Kam-lun, former district council members; and Gordon Ng Ching-hang, an activist.
“They are forced to make the impossible decision between pleading guilty to a nonexistent crime for a potential reduction in sentence, or fighting a losing battle under the unjust national security law," Young added. "Most of the 47 have been detained for two years without trial, due to the extremely stringent bail threshold which in effect creates an assumption against bail in national security cases. Whatever happens in the trial, that injustice alone can never be undone."
With this mass trial, the Hong Kong government is attempting to shut off all meaningful political participation in Hong Kong. But the fact that people came to the court today to protest against these prosecutions, despite the risks, showed that the Hong Kong authorities will never be able to fully crush dissent.
People must be allowed to freely express their opinions in Hong Kong, without the threat of jail. Peaceful political opposition is not a crime.
"The charges against the 47 are based entirely upon claimed hypothetical threats to national security," Young added. "All those still detained in the case should be immediately released and the charges against all dropped."
There was a heavy police presence outside the West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts as the trial got underway Monday. Protesters, including members of the progressive League of Social Democrats, staged small demonstrations outside the building before being dispersed.
\u201cThe League of Social Democrats is the only group protesting outside the court building, as the landmark trial on 47 leading pro-democracy icons kicks off in Hong Kong. Such a demonstration is rarely seen although it's a very small-scale one.\u201d— Phoebe Kong (@Phoebe Kong) 1675658145
"Primary elections are something that happens in every democratic country," one supporter of the defendants toldAgence France-Presse outside the court. "But I don't know why something like this has happened in Hong Kong, that holding primaries is being considered breaking the law."
During both the Trump and Biden administrations, the United States—which Beijing accuses of "interference in Hong Kong affairs" and "anti-China destabilization"—imposed sanctions on a handful of Hong Kong and Chinese officials in connection with the crackdown. Biden also recently extended a program that shields Hong Kong residents from deportation.