Washington Window: A New NAFTA?

Republican President Donald Trump has told the GOP-run Congress he’s going to renegotiate NAFTA, presumably – he says – to make it more worker-friendly.

Organized labor not only plans to hold him to that vow, but released a 47-page detailed proposal to ensure it, rewriting the controversial 23-year-old so-called “free trade” pact.

The rewrite contains a detailed worker rights section that would be included in the treaty text, plus provisions to ensure it’s enforceable and enforced. The rewrite also kills a secret pro-corporate “trade court” whose rulings could override U.S., state and local laws on everything from the minimum wage to job safety and health. It makes currency manipulation a trade violation and tightens domestic content rules to ensure that, in so many words, a car made in the U.S.A., really is made in the U.S.A., not with Chinese parts transshipped through Mexico.

And that’s for starters.

But the fed is investing a lot more in this rewrite of NAFTA than just massive change in a pro-corporate trade pact. For one thing, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard and Communications Workers President Chris Shelton say, the current NAFTA was the template for trade pacts corporations imposed to rule over the rest of us.

As a result, “more than half of the American public sees involvement with globalization as a bad thing,” Trumka said in a telephone press conference on the fed’s NAFTA rewrite plan.

The AFL-CIO and its unions accept globalization and trade as facts of life. But they aim to rewrite the rules of the road so globalization helps raise workers up, not beat them down.

“Since 2000, we’ve lost 60,000 factories,” says Gerard. “These trade deals have put downward pressure on wages in Mexico and Canada” as well as the U.S., he adds. USW knows: The union not only represents workers in the U.S. and Canada but is heavily involved in organizing and sponsoring independent pro-worker, anti-corporate Mexican unions.

Shelton said it’s not just factory jobs. NAFTA now pushes offshoring of white-collar call center jobs, too. The latest? Shelton cites a new Mexican call center staffed by 5,000 people who speak excellent English. They were deported from the U.S. as undocumented workers.

NAFTA spawned all this. And it has been a template for subsequent “free trade” deals which cover far more than trade and which affect everything from the price of vegetables to the components of your car to whether there’s a job for you at the factory down the road.

Redoing NAFTA so that it works for workers, the AFL-CIO hopes, could lead to a reworking of other similar pacts – and to turning the world economy around, making it pro-worker, not pro-boss.

The current NAFTA was created by “a corporate-driven process…that didn’t work” for workers, Trumka said.

“So let’s enact policies that get rid of the ISDS” – the secret trade court – “that ban currency manipulation, that raise wages in Mexico in a real way. Let’s enact these policy recommendations to make NAFTA work for working people.”

Will Trump do that? Doubtful, so pressure him – and Congress – to do so.

“If it’s good for workers, we’ll support it,” Trumka says of Trump’s new NAFTA. “If it’s bad for workers, we’ll do everything in our power to defeat it – and to defeat those who support it.”

Source: PAI