NAFTA’s Back and Worse Than Ever

Tim Canova 

Chair, Progress For All


During last year’s presidential campaign, Donald Trump called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico, “the worst trade deal ever” and a “disaster” and vowed to overhaul the deal. Trump’s campaign pledge helped him win over voters in places like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and other states devastated by the loss of manufacturing jobs as a result of bad trade deals.

Since NAFTA went into effect in 1994, more than 60,000 U.S. manufacturing plants have closed their doors and almost a million American jobs have been off-shored, helping driving down wages nationwide for millions of others.

Unfortunately, as president, Trump has reneged on his campaign promises, saying in late February that “NAFTA just needs tweaking,” Now he’s poised to let huge corporations and their lobbyists rewrite the rules for NAFTA by adding in some of the worst provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

This is alarming! Trump campaigned against the TPP last year, as did Bernie Sanders — and as I did in my campaign against Debbie Wasserman Schultz who voted to “fast-track” the TPP. Now Trump’s trade team wants to make NAFTA look more like the TPP!

Recently leaked documents, written by Trump’s U.S. Trade Representative, reveal that corporate lobbyists and trade advisors have been meeting behind closed doors for the past month to discuss renegotiating NAFTA — and they are leaving labor, the public, and members of Congress in the dark, just like they did with the TPP.

AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, says the Trump administration “would leave the most oppressive pieces of NAFTA in place.” Chuck Jones, President of United Steelworkers Local 1999, concurred by saying, “We’ve seen his plan for NAFTA, and the American worker isn’t in it. We’re locked out again.”

In its current form, NAFTA already has an “Investor Rights” provision, which allows giant corporations to challenge health, safety, and environmental laws, and not in U.S. courts, but in offshore arbitration panels with corporate lawyers serving as arbitration judges. I know, as a law professor I’ve been speaking out against these provisions for years. Investor Rights are the centerpiece of the corporate assault on people, communities, and democracy. Now we know that Trump wants to expand these investor protections.

On many other issues — Buy America and domestic content, intellectual property, access to medicine, financial services deregulation, food standards and product safety — NAFTA will look a lot like the TPP. But we have to remember that our grassroots movement stepped up and spoke out loud and clear against the TPP. We can do the same to stop this NAFTA 2.0.

The Trump administration is set to issue its 90-day notice of intent to launch trade negotiations for NAFTA at the end of April when Congress returns from recess – giving us a three month window to let our voices be heard. Working together we can beat back the army of corporate lobbyists intent on using the NAFTA negotiations to revive the worst parts of the TPP.

We must demand a renegotiation plan for NAFTA that puts our workers, environment, and public health first — ahead of corporate profits!


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