Renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is underway. Concerned citizens desire democratic, transparent negotiations. Imperative for U.S. negotiators is the removal of controversial NAFTA provisions that gave multi-national corporations immense powers to attack environmental and consumer safety laws, which corporations deem detrimental to their business model and to offshore American jobs.
Perhaps the most egregious chapter of NAFTA is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Under this provision of NAFTA, multi-national corporations have the right to sue for the loss of anticipated future profits before a tribunal of three corporate lawyers. This tribunal can order American taxpayers to pay corporations when their lawyers “prove” to the tribunal that existing laws protecting public health or the environment violate special trade agreement rights and thereby impede the corporation’s ability to make profits. The tribunal’s decisions are not subject to appeal. Corporations thus benefit from a special system of “justice” outside our courts.
These 1994 NAFTA trade provisions, coupled with 1995 World Trade Organization agreements, precipitated the loss of more than 79,000 Washington jobs according to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. Americans nationwide have experienced the loss of nearly five million manufacturing jobs. This “free trade” agreement has driven down wages and created record trade deficits. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that a majority of Americans have experienced wage suppression of 12.2 percent. In 2016, the trade deficit for American goods rose to $173 billion.
A new trade agreement must include enforceable labor and environmental standards that protect us all from corporate greed. Replacing NAFTA is essential to creating a global economy that benefits working families instead of corporate elites. For more information, refer to www.tradewatch.org.