Today, at the first formal event kicking off NAFTA renegotiations, working people rallied to urge the Trump administration to replace NAFTA with a deal that benefits them rather than multinational corporate interests. In a demonstration of unprecedented support for these demands, a broad coalition of working people, consumer, environmental, labor, and public-interest advocacy groups who defeated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) delivered more than 100,000 petition signatures to the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer. The USTR office began public hearings today on what a new or revised NAFTA should look like in the future.
Individuals, companies, elected officials, and organizations across the country also submitted 50,000 formal comments ahead of the hearing. While these comments overwhelmingly support a new trade deal that supports working people, we can be sure that many of the lobbying powerhouses testifying this week, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are the same architects of the original NAFTA deal and had their hands in similarly bad trade deals, such as the failed TPP. Of course, these resulting agreements have been ideal for corporate profits and awful for working people and our communities.
While it is hard to trust that the current administration will prioritize the livelihoods of working people, we have some leverage to make our voices heard right now. During the campaign, Donald Trump made NAFTA renegotiation a key promise to gain the support of voters. A sham renegotiation that does nothing to lift up working people will hurt his chances of reelection. Further, Trump may have to rely on votes from progressive members of Congress because the NAFTA renegotiation is unlikely to draw unanimous support from conservatives.
At the same time, we can’t allow NAFTA renegotiations to continue to drive artificial wedges between those who work in the United States, Mexico, and other countries. If the defining message for NAFTA renegotiation is to protect Mexicans from taking U.S. jobs, it distracts from the core problems that many elected leaders don’t want to address: Trade deals give free reign to global corporations to make countries compete to pay the lowest wages, have the least protections for working people, and have the worst working conditions. It is heartening that social movements and unions from the United States, Canada, and Mexico have already met to strategize on their vision for a trade pact that benefits working people in all three countries, rather than pit them against each other.
A renegotiated pact needs to lift up working families in all three of the NAFTA countries. To do so, men and women from Canada, Mexico, and the United States must be able to share input in all stages of the talks. As importantly, a new trade deal should enable working people to freely negotiate for better standards and lives with their corporate bosses, even if their employer is located across the border.
As Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta commented in response to today’s rally. “This marks just the start of our renewed fight for trade deals that prioritize fair pay, good jobs, and workplace protections over CEO salaries and profits. We are sick of corporate lobbyists writing secret, job-killing trade policies that harm our communities and democracy. Right now we have the opportunity to fix the decades-old problems with NAFTA and lay out new standards for a 21st-century global economy that allow working families to thrive. As more working people across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada speak out, we can stop stealthy elites from bending the rules for their own gains while hurting the rest of us.”
If working people continue to come together and engage on NAFTA renegotiation, a new, better NAFTA will result. Don’t miss out on your chance to weigh in on the new NAFTA, sign our petition today.